A hazmat spill in Tucson, Arizona, sparked some evacuations and a shelter-in-place order was issued Tuesday. The situation arose after a commercial truck tractor pulling a box trailer carrying liquid nitric acid crashed on Interstate 10 in the city's metro area.

The state's Department of Public Safety (AZDPS) confirmed the incident, which occurred at around 2:43 p.m. ET. The truck rolled over, crashed, and cracked open after which the liquid nitric acid began to leak into the area. The truck driver was killed in the accident.

I-10 was closed in both directions between Kolb and Rita roads, KKTV reported.

AZDPS along with the Tucson Police and fire department evacuated a perimeter around the area due to the dangers of nitric acid. The evacuation order was carried out after yellow fumes from the acid were sent up into the air.

The highly corrosive material is harmful to humans as well as the environment.

What are the dangers of nitric acid?

According to the CDC, exposure to the acid and its yellow or red fumes can cause "irritation to the eyes, skin, and mucous membrane; it can also cause delayed pulmonary edema, pneumonitis, bronchitis, and dental erosion."

Exposure to nitric acid mist is also associated with cancer of the larynx and lungs.

If it comes in contact with skin, the material can cause deep burns, blisters, and permanent scarring. Contact with the eyes may result in corneal burns, photophobia and blindness.

If ingested, nitric acid can burn the esophagus and stomach and lead to a string of issues like hemorrhage, abdominal pain and nausea. In some cases, it may even cause haematemesis or vomiting blood. This condition can prove to be fatal.

The effects of nitric acid on animals are the same as on humans. Plants on the other hand seem to benefit from the acid's introduction to the soil as it helps release nitrogen which bolsters plant growth.

However, an excessive presence of this acid can cause overgrowth leading to more foliage, reduced fruit production, and delayed fruit maturity. It can also result in the death of small roots and plant damage by root-feeding nematodes.

Nitric acid is an important raw material used in various production processes in the chemical industry. Its manufacture indirectly harms the environment. Its by-product, nitrous acid — a greenhouse gas — is sent into the atmosphere. It is reportedly 265 times more harmful than carbon dioxide and contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer.

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Representative Image AFP / Hector RETAMAL