EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – Six people at the U.S. Air National Guard’s 177th Fighter Wing were taken to the hospital as a precaution Thursday after being exposed to a chemical released from a fighter plane’s emergency power system.
Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley said the accident happened around 2:30 p.m. Thursday when personnel were working on the F-16’s Emergency Power Unit, which as its name suggests provides electrical and hydraulic power to the aircraft if the engines shut down.
The six people were taken to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, Mainland Campus, as a precaution because of possible exposure to a hydrazine byproduct, Moseley said.
“Concerned about the airmen’s safety and as a precautionary measure, the 177th Fighter Wing sent the personnel in the area of the EPU activation for testing and evaluation,” Moseley said in an email.
The emergency power system uses chemicals including hydrazine, which according to the National Institutes of Health's Open Chemistry Database is a rocket fuel. Hydrazine is also the chemical that Matt Damon’s character catalyzes to create water in the movie and book “The Martian.”
Hydrazine is a corrosive and toxic chemical. Exposure can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, dizziness, headaches, nausea and seizures, according to the Open Chemistry Database. Acute exposure can lead to kidney and liver damage and neurological problems.
The 177th Fighter Wing protects U.S. airspace over cities from New York to Washington, D.C. The air wing flies F-16s from its base at Atlantic City International Airport.