306 people were temporarily evacuated from their homes and a two-month-old baby was admitted to hospital as a precaution following a chemical spill at the Rheinmetall Denel Munition Factory near Wellington in Western Cape Province, South Africa, on Thursday 4 January 2017. An unknown amount of the chemical oleum, which is also known as fuming sulphuric acid and can give rise to a mist of sulphuric acid, was spilled, prompting the Cape Winelands Fire Service to evacuate all properties within 3 km of the site as a precaution, and close of a reaction of the R44 highway.
The approximate location of the Rheinmetall Denel Munition Factory. Google Maps.
Oleum is a solution of sulphur trioxide dissolved in sulphuric acid, which is principally used (counter intuitively) to make more sulphuric acid. Sulphuric acid can be made by adding sulphur trioxide to water, however this produces a vapour of sulphuric acid, which is extremely difficult to handle, so oleum is often produced as an intermediate product, which can then be turned into more sulphuric acid by (carefully) adding water to dilute it. Oleum is also sometimes used as a way of transporting concentrated sulphuric acid.
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