One of the rail cars that derailed near Scott this morning contained phosphoric acid, hence the cause of the evacuations.

Haz-Mat crews have been on the scene for hours now cleaning up the spill. But what is phosphoric acid, anyway? Is it harmful to the families who live near the railroad?

Those who live or work in the immediate areas around the Pecan Grove Road train derailment should heed warnings from local law enforcement and emergency crews.

Though phosphoric acid is a common ingredient found in food, it may also cause some health concerns if people come in contact with the colorless, odorless, syrupy substance.

UL Lafayette Professor of Organic Chemistry August Gallo, Ph.D,  told KPEL the chemical compound can cause be an irritant to upper respiratory systems, eyes and skin tissues.

Though people should be cautious around phosphoric acid, Gallo said the chemical is not as dangerous as hydrochloric acid or sulphuric acids.

Though it may not cause health problems in all nearby residents, the chemical  could be harmful to those with weak immune systems and seasonal allergy sufferers, Gallo said.

The use of phosphoric acid in fertilizers is by far the most prominent use in the United States. Its qualities that affect plant growth could be an issue to vegetation in the area, Gallo added.

Though some health concerns hover around the spill, phosphoric acid is actually used in LOTS of products we use everyday.

Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry states that phosphoric acid is used to give fods and carbonated beverages a tangy flavor. Phosphoric acid is the chemical compound found in Coca-Cola that cleans the rust from your vehicle's battery posts.

Other sources list phosphoric acid as a common ingredient in dental products like toothpaste and teeth whiteners.

Several sources report phosphoric acid, used in direct applications, is used as a rust remover.

Until Haz-Mat crews clean up the spill , evacuation measures will remain in place for the more than 120 homes nearby. And it seems like it may be for a good cause.

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