Lab Explosion Injures 2

Lab Explosion Injures 2

12:47pm Apr 14, 2014
Emergency crews have blocked off First Street between Church Street and Chestnut because of the chemical explosion at a lab in Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.
Paul Garber

Two people were injured after a lab explosion in Wake Forest Innovation Quarter in downtown Winston-Salem Monday.

The blast happened at about 10 a.m. in a lab operated by a chemical company called Asinex. The lab is located on the fourth floor of what used to be the Targacept building. It’s at the corner of First and Church streets in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter in downtown Winston-Salem. Assistant Fire Chief Tad Byrum says there were 144 people in the building at the time and all of them were evacuated.

The explosion occurred during an experiment using sodium azide. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease control, sodium azide is an odorless white solid that is rapidly acting and potentially deadly. When mixed with water or an acid, sodium azide becomes a toxic gas. The experiment was conducted under a protective ventilation hood. How the experiment went awry is still under investigation. Byrum says the damage was limited to the lab area.

Eric Tomlinson is President of Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. When asked about Asinex’s workplace safety record, he says the company’s record was reviewed as a requirement to sign the lease. He says the company has a good record and like all labs in the Quarter, they are periodically reviewed.

Chief Byrum says emergency crews were going floor to floor to make sure the air quality in the building was safe. He says once fire investigators have finished, the cleanup of the damage will be turned over to a private environmental company.

Follow Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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