Vinyl Chloride Monomer Release from a Railroad Tank Car and Fire, Formosa Plastics Corporation Plant

What Happened

At 3:45 a.m., on July 30, 1983, vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) under pressure escaped from a railroad tank car at the loading facility within the Formosa Plastics Corporation chemical manufacturing plant at Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The released VCM was ignited by an undetermined source, and a large billowing fire ensued. An adjacent tank car containing VCM was involved in the fire but did not rupture violently. Two persons were injured seriously, two tank cars were destroyed, three tank cars were damaged moderately, and the loading facility was damaged extensively. Damage was estimated to be $1 million.