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On July 16, a train carrying toxic phosphorus derailed in western Ukraine, causing the evacuation of hundreds of people and drawing comparisons to Chernobyl.
West Midlands police are warning people to stay indoors after a large phosphorus cloud was released in a chemical fire at a factory today.
Police are advising residents of the Langley and West Bromwich areas to remain calm but stay inside and keep their doors and windows closed. Motorists have been urged to keep moving and keep windows closed and air vents off.
The cloud, approximately 15 metres by 120 metres, was caused by the fire at Rhodia Consumer Specialities, Trinity Street, Langley, and drifted south towards the M5 along the Wolverhampton Road.
Rhodia Consumer Specialties' (previously Albright and Wilson) chemical phosphates plant at Widnes produces additives used in food, meat and beverages.
Albright and Wilson was founded in 1856 as a United Kingdom manufacturer of potassium chlorate and white phosphorus for the match industry. For much of its first 100 years of existence, phosphorus-derived chemicals formed the majority of its products.
French company, Rhodia, took over Albright and Wilson in 1999.
In 1999 and 2000 Rhodia acquired Albright and Wilson, a British chemical company and ChiRex, an American specialty pharmaceutical company. However in 2003 Rhodia closed the former Albright and Wilson Phosphates plant based in Whitehaven and sold the remainder of the Surfactant business to the Huntsman Corporation.
In 2003 and 2004, Edouard Stern and Hugues de Lasteyrie filed suit against Rhodia with claims of accounting irregularities. At the time, Thierry Breton was a board member of Rhodia and later, from 2005 to 2007, he was the Minister of the Economy, Finance and Industry (France). Edouard Stern was murdered on March 1, 2005.
Rhodia was originally the chemicals division of Rhône-Poulenc until it was spun off into a separate company in 1998.
In January 1999, Rhône-Poulenc merged with Hoechst AG to form Aventis. In 2004, Aventis went on to merge with Sanofi-Synthélabo forming Sanofi-Aventis, the third largest pharmaceutical company in the world.
The agricultural chemicals division of Rhône-Poulenc, known as Aventis CropScience after the merger with Hoechst, was sold to the German chemical and pharmaceutical company Bayer in 2002. In 1998, the chemicals division of Rhône-Poulenc was spun-off into a separate company named Rhodia.