Chlorine gas poisoning symptoms, illness and treatment as 29 people are hospitalized due to Olympic Park leak

29 people were taken to hospital today following a chlorine gas leak at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford East London. The source of the leak was later discovered to be a chemical reaction during the delivery of new chemicals to the Aquatics Centre, where 200 people were swimming at the time.

When the leak was discovered, these swimmers were forced to quickly evacuate the building with witnesses describing the scene as alarms sounded and people ran ‘coughing and covering their faces’, a strong smell of chlorine filling the air. A total of 77 of those people were later treated for injuries related to chlorine exposure, with the London Ambulance Service noting that most of them were people experiencing “minor breathing difficulty”.

Later, when London firefighters ventilated the aquatics centre, removing the remaining chlorine from its airways, they advised residents of all nearby residential buildings to “stay indoors during this time and keep all windows and the doors closed.

READ MORE: East Londoners complain of waking up to a mysterious stench that smelled so bad they were ‘afraid to breathe’

77 people were treated for chlorine exposure following a leak at the Olympic Park Aquatics Center in Stratford, east London, today

What is chlorine and what happens when you are exposed to it?

Chlorine solution is normally used for cleaning swimming pools in small quantities. But, London firefighters reported that “a large amount of chlorine gas was released” after a chemical reaction at the swimming center this morning. Witnesses also described smelling the chemical as they fled in bathing suits.

The gas can be deadly in large quantities and was notoriously used during World War I, before the Geneva Convention banned chemical weapons, where the gas killed more than 2,000 unprotected British soldiers – injuring an estimated 165,000 others during the process.

The UK Health Protection Agency says that as chlorine is a naturally occurring gas, the most likely way to be affected is in your eyes and lungs through inhalation.

Under these circumstances, low amounts can cause “lung and eye irritation”, while high amounts can lead to “coughing and difficulty breathing” as fluid builds up in the lungs. These are all symptoms that were reported by emergency services treating the injured at Olympic Park today.

The HPA also warns “a number of accidental household exposures to chlorine occur each year due to the improper mixing of household cleaning products or the incorrect use of pool sanitizers.”

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