Chemical spill in Southern California: Riverside County homes evacuated

Chemical spill in Southern California: Riverside County homes evacuated

A chemical leak from a railroad tank car prompted Southern California officials on Friday to shut down a major highway and evacuate more than 100 homes due to fears of an explosion.

Officials said the train car was leaking a chemical called styrene, which is used to make plastic products. Styrene is a highly flammable substance that can cause skin and eye irritation and is toxic if inhaled, according to the National Institutes of Health. One of the main concerns was that the car would explode as pressure built up inside the car and temperatures rose throughout the day.

The train car was stopped on a railroad that runs parallel to the 215 Freeway, near commercial businesses and a residential neighborhood just north of Perris, California, 75 miles inland from Los Angeles. Styrene is typically kept at about 85 degrees, but the temperature in the container had reached at least 323 degrees, officials said.

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