Updated 07/12/2012 09:05 PM
Hazardous material incident at Wake Biotech sends two staff members to the hospital
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WINSTON-SALEM — Rescue workers closed down the area around Wake Forest Biotech Place Thursday morning after small chemical spill.
Officials say the incident happened shortly before 3 a.m. inside the facility. Officials say the public was not in danger and the spill was contained to a small area.
Two janitors at the plant were treated for their exposure to the chemical.
“They had been doing routine cleaning. They had dropped a box and in that box was a bottle of laboratory re-agent which broke,” said Winston-Salem Fire Department Battalion Chief A.T. Byrum.
The workers were exposed to a laboratory chemical called Trizol. It is used in DNA and RNA research and less than a half-gallon was released. According to Chief Byrum, the chemical can cause skin burns, skin irritations, and respiratory difficulties. Large amounts of Trizol can cause seizures of respiratory arrest.
Firefighters said their first concern was getting the chemical off of the janitors.
“We don't get them 100 percent clean. We're trying to get the contaminants off of them. So we'll be a quick rinse, strip the clothes, then use like a baby soap and wash them down then we give them like some scrubs to wear,” said Byrum.
The two janitors were transported to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to be examined. Authorities say they quickly got the scene under control.
“Our hazardous materials team; their main job is to confine the spill and stop it from spreading any further. Fortunately in this case it did not go past the building,” said Byrum.
The medical center's environmental, health and safety department is investigating the incident.