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Chemical spills sicken employees at 2 sites

Hazardous materials crews responded to two separate problems Friday morning that sent more than a half dozen people to area hospitals.

The first was in Salt Lake City at Shriner's Children's Hospital, 11th Avenue and Virginia, and the second in a Deseret Industries facility in Magna.The problem at the hospital occurred shortly before 8 a.m. when hydrochloric liquid spilled as chemicals were being mixed to treat water at the hospital Friday morning.

One hospital worker, whose name wasn't available at press time, inhaled some of the gas from the liquid, which when mixed with water turns to an acid. It creates a burning sensation in the lungs, said Salt Lake Fire Capt. Devin Villa.

The injured worker was taken to LDS Hospital for treatment. It wasn't clear how serious the injuries were Friday morning.

Four other employees were taken to Salt Lake Regional Hospital as a precaution, Villa said.

Fire hazardous materials crews and hospital employees quickly contained the spill to a work area, he said. The chemicals were being mixed near the hospital's hydrotherapy pool in the north wing. Villa said 23 patients are housed in that section.

No patients were harmed or had to be moved as a result of the spill.

About 80 employees working in the hospital's north wing were evacuated until fire crews could confirm that there was no trace of the dangerous gas, Villa said. Fire crews were called about 7:55 a.m. and about 40 minutes later said they felt the spill was contained and the building safe.

The second incident occurred about 8:30 a.m. Salt Lake County fire crews responded to a Deseret Industries store, 3606 S. 7200 West, after several employees com-plained of an irritating cough, nausea, vomiting and headaches.

Salt Lake County Fire Capt. Bill Brass said 35 people arrived for work at the building about 7 a.m. About 8:15 a.m. several employees began complaining of a cough and feeling sick.

Four people were taken to a local hospital. Another with chest pains that didn't appear to be related to the others was also taken to a hospital, Brass said.

Hazmet crews went into the business with gas detectors but found nothing. They originally suspected a carbon monoxide leak, Brass said.

An employee finally told fire-fighters that he sprayed pepper mace out the back door, and the wind blew the gas back into the building's work area.

"It was just a curiosity thing," Brass said, "nothing intentional."

The company's remaining employees were evacuated to a building north of the store.