Mon09152014

Last updateSun, 10 Aug 2014 9pm

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Chemical explosion sends man to hospital

A chemist was seriously injured during a chemical explosion at SynQuest Labs in Alachua Tuesday afternoon.  The company is located in the Copeland Industrial Park on Rachel Boulevard.

The explosion reportedly occurred when the chemist was working with the chemical hexafluorobutane.  The compound remains a liquid until about 77 degrees Fahrenheit or roughly room temperature before it begins changing into a gaseous state, SynQuest Labs President Adam Alty said.

Alty, who was not at the facility when the explosion occurred, said the injured chemist was working with about 1.2 gallons of the chemical and that the explosion was enough to break the flask in which it was contained.  The chemist was wearing protective eyewear and a lab coat at the time of the incident, Alty said.  Although the injuries were serious, he said they were not life threatening and the injured man remains in Shands Hospital.

Following the incident, Alty said his company engaged its emergency response team and contacted rescue services.  A hazardous material team responded to the scene as well as an ambulance which transported the injured man.

No one else was in the lab when the explosion occurred.  The SynQuest facility includes four labs, but only one of them was believed to be affected by the blast.  As of Wednesday afternoon, manufacturing at the site remained shut down as the company conducted an incident review.  Alty said he expects some manufacturing to resume Thursday.

No one else was injured as a result of the explosion and an investigation into the incident is continuing.  Alty said the facility doesn’t pose a threat to the public and people shouldn’t be concerned.

“We follow all OSHA guidelines and have permits for everything,” he said.

SynQuest Labs specializes in fluorine chemistry and produces compounds using fluorine.  The products are typically sold in small amounts to laboratories around the world for research and development purposes, Alty said.

The company occupies about 55,000 square feet, most of which is office and warehouse space.  It has been in the Copeland Industrial Park since 1995 and employs about 35 people.