Fumes force evacuation of 500 from Denver hospital | AspenTimes.com

Fumes force evacuation of 500 from Denver hospital

Alysia Patterson
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Chemical fumes temporarily forced the evacuation of about 500 people on Monday from Denver’s National Jewish Health, a nationally known respiratory hospital.

Hospital spokesman William Allstetter said most of the evacuees were staff members. About 45 people were transported to other hospitals for treatment, mostly for nausea and respiratory irritation.

The evacuations included about 90 children attending an elementary school on the hospital campus for students with respiratory ailments.

Three buildings were evacuated, but the main hospital wasn’t affected and doctors were still seeing patients, Allstetter said. Fire officials allowed people back into the buildings about 31/2 hours after the spill, though the school remained closed because the children were sent home.

Chlorine and hydrochloric acid were inadvertently mixed during maintenance work at a swimming pool at the elementary school, and the fumes spread through tunnels running among the buildings, he said.

Ann Romero, an adminstrative coordinator at the hospital, said she was told to evacuate shortly after getting to work but wasn’t worried about her own safety. “I was thinking about the patients, really,” she said.

Terry Garner, an incident commander for the Salvation Army, said everyone seemed “very calm” during the evacuation.

Doctors at National Jewish conduct research and provide mostly outpatient care.

In 2007, the hospital gained national attention when its doctors diagnosed the first non-factory worker case of “popcorn lung” in a man who ate two bags of microwave popcorn a day. The ailment, formally known as bronchiolitis obliterans, had previously been found only in popcorn factory workers.

That same year, National Jewish treated the first American quarantined by the federal government since 1963. The man was first thought to have XDR-TB or extremely drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis. Subsequent testing showed he had the less dangerous multidrug-resistant TB.

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