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PASADENA, Texas Worried homeowners in Pasadena spent Tuesday evening behind closed doors, as a toxic cloud of nitric oxide drifted slowly overhead.

This is serious stuff, said Javier Avila, from a front driveway in the Red Bluff Terrace subdivision. Chemicals can kill you.

Less than a mile away, emergency crews responded to a chemical leak at the Air Products and Chemicals Plant, located off State Highway 225 near Red Bluff Road. Officials say a cloud of nitric oxide was released when a scrubbing unit malfunctioned.

We immediately notified the authorities and informed them of where the wind was blowing the cloud, said plant manager Jacques Joseph.

Emergency crews issued a shelter-in-place order and shut down portions of 225 as a precaution. Pasadena s fire chief questioned the plant s timeline of when officials were notified of the problem.

Air Products said the incident happened at about 4:45 p.m.

Some of our first reports came from motorists as they drove through the orange cloud, said Fire Chief Lanny Armstrong.

Theshelter-in-place order was lifted around 8 p.m. No one was seriously hurt, but three people complaining of breathing difficulties were treated at a local hospital.

Officials have launched an investigation to determine how the leak occurred. Some residents expressed relief that the incident wasn t any worse.

This was very scary, knew and terrifying for me, said Jose Deleon.

Air Products serves customers in industrial, energy, technology and healthcare markets worldwide, according to its Web site.

We are investigating this incident to determine the root cause. We regret any inconvenience and delays this may have caused, the company said in a statement released Tuesday.

Air Products produces several gases including helium, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen.

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