At least six people were killed after a suspected liquid nitrogen leak at a poultry plant in the US state of Georgia on 28th January, according to officials.

Nicholas Ancrum, Vice-President of Human Resources at Foundation Food Group, told reporters that preliminary indications are that a nitrogen line ruptured inside the Foundation Food Group plant, which makes poultry products, in Gainesville.

Others were taken to hospital with “serious injuries”, and first responders also needed treatment.

“Until this investigation is completed we cannot say with confidence precisely how this accident occurred,” Ancrum told reporters.

Liquid nitrogen is used in refrigeration systems at food processing plants. When supercooled liquid nitrogen vaporises into an odourless gas and is leaked into the air, it is capable of displacing oxygen. Liquid nitrogen can quickly burn or freeze skin, eyes, and body tissue if mishandled or ingested due to its extremely low temperature (–320 °F / –196 °C).

The Compressed Gas Association (CGA) advises never to use liquid nitrogen in an enclosed inadequately ventilated area or room; never trap liquid nitrogen in an enclosed container not designed for this purpose; wear PPE and never consume liquid nitrogen directly.