Caustic fumes force medical center evacuation

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Noxious fumes apparently generated by a malfunctioning air conditioner wafted through a Sorrento Valley medical center Tuesday morning, leaving patients and staffers feeling ill and forcing a complete evacuation of the three-story facility.

People began reporting an acrid odor and onsets of nausea, dizziness, stinging eyes and respiratory difficulty at Sharp Rees-Stealy Sorrento Mesa in the 10200 block of Genetic Center Drive about 8:30 a.m., according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

Firefighters evacuated all the occupants — more than 100 people — while medics evaluated those complaining of adverse reactions to the chemical smell, SDFRD spokesman Maurice Luque said. Ambulance crews took seven of the patients to hospitals for further evaluation and treatment.

For their part, emergency crews noticed no pungent odors upon their arrival to the clinic, and their air-quality sensors also detected no hazardous vapors, Luque said.

Investigators eventually determined that a problem with the building's air-conditioning system apparently had caused a rubber belt to heat up and burn, sending caustic fumes throughout the building.

The center reopened for normal operations about 1 p.m., according to Sharp HealthCare officials.

Categories: KUSI