3 pharmacy workers taken to hospital

Employees had touched potent chemical that had leaked from bottle

February 20, 2002|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Three employees at Feldman's Dorsey Hall Pharmacy in Columbia were taken to a hospital yesterday after accidentally touching a sometimes-deadly substance that had leaked from a bottle overnight, a pharmacist said.

About 6 ounces of phenol had leaked through a plastic bottle, said Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services spokesman M. Sean Kelly. Fire and rescue personnel arrived at the pharmacy, in the 9500 block of Old Annapolis Road, just before 10 a.m. to clean up the substance and treat exposed employees, Kelly said. The pharmacy remained closed until about 4:30 p.m. yesterday, pharmacist Julie White said.

The three employees, whose names were not released, were taken to Sinai Hospital in Baltimore after being decontaminated, Kelly said. All three were released about 4 p.m. and none suffered injuries, White said.

Employees believe the substance, which is used in small amounts to make ointments more effective, leaked from a break in the bottle and mixed with other substances, White said. "It was just one of those fluky things," she said.

Exposure of the skin to phenol can cause liver damage, diarrhea and red-cell destruction, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. In extreme exposure cases, such as when more than 25 percent of the body is covered in phenol, the substance can cause death.

A fourth person who might have inhaled the substance was evaluated at the scene and declined treatment, Kelly said.

Short-term effects of inhalation can include respiratory irritation, headaches and burning eyes, according to the agency.

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