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14 medical clinic employees are sickened by fumes

March 29, 2007|Stuart Silverstein | Times Staff Writer

At least 14 employees of an East Los Angeles medical clinic were sickened Wednesday after inhaling fumes from an accidental acid spill.

Capt. Mike Brown of the Los Angeles County Fire Department said the employees were taken to hospitals after reporting nausea, vomiting and breathing problems.

The nonprofit organization that operates the clinic, AltaMed Health Services, said late Wednesday that two workers remained under observation in emergency rooms and that the others had been released.

Brown said the spill, which occurred about 4 p.m., was from a dropped container of phenol, a caustic substance also known as carbolic acid. In diluted form, it is used as a disinfectant and antiseptic. AltaMed said the phenol was used at the primary healthcare clinic, at 5427 E. Whittier Blvd., to treat ingrown toenails.

Officials said Hazmat crews were dispatched to the clinic, which was evacuated, and that the 6-ounce spill was cleaned up. The facility will reopen today.

AltaMed, based in Commerce, says it operates 23 sites and provides services to more than 48,000 patients a year in Southern California. Its clients include patients with HIV and substance-abuse problems, along with the elderly and disabled.

stuart.silverstein@latimes.com

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