24 taken to hospital in spill drama

MORE than 20 employees at an Essex DIY store were taken to hospital after they became ill following a chemical spillage.Paramedics set up specialist decontamination units at the B&Q store in Clacton, Essex, after the alarm was raised shortly before the store was due to open on Saturday morning.

By Roddy Ashworth

MORE than 20 employees at an Essex DIY store were taken to hospital after they became ill following a chemical spillage.

Paramedics set up specialist decontamination units at the B&Q store in Clacton, Essex, after the alarm was raised shortly before the store was due to open on Saturday morning.

A decontamination tent was also set up at Colchester General Hospital where those affected were showered down and changed their clothes before treatment.


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The store, at Brook Retail Park off London Road, was closed to members of the public all day on Saturday after a bottle of kettle de-scaler containing formic acid was spilled.

The spill - of only around two thirds of a litre of the fluid - was initially cleaned up by staff at around 4am.

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However, later on nine B&Q employees started complaining of conditions such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, palpitations and shortness of breath.

They were taken by car to Colchester General Hospital at about 8.15am.

The group of seven men and two women were decontaminated by hospital staff, and two men were admitted as in-patients.

However, shortly before 9.30pm the East of England Ambulance Service was called to the B&Q store after further reports of ill workers, including one woman who was said to be drifting in and out of consciousness.

Steve Wheaton, head of the ambulance incident support unit, said: “In total a further 15 patients were taken to Colchester General Hospital.

“All had been fully decontaminated before being transported. Six - three men and three women - were showing symptoms of having breathed in the fumes.

“A further nine - six men and three women - were not complaining of any of the symptoms but were taken in as a precaution.” Mr Wheaton added: “A total of 24 people have gone to hospital.”

He added no customers appeared to have suffered any harm.

“We are aware that members of the public may be concerned that they might have been affected.

“Only people who have been in the store over the last 24 hours and develop symptoms should have any concerns.

“It is unlikely you will be affected unless you were in direct contact with the cleaning product or breathed in the fumes.”

The B&Q building was later cleaned by specialists.

A police spokeswoman said: “There's no suggestion that this was anything other than an accident.

“Anyone with any concerns should contact NHS Direct on 08454647.”

Yesterday a spokeswoman for B&Q said that all staff had returned to work and the store was open as usual.

“It is all back to normal. We have a nurse on site in case anybody does feel queasy, but that is purely a precautionary measure and we have had no difficulties.

“There will be an internal investigation into what happened.”

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