Toronto

Dozens of workers decontaminated after chemical spill in North York

Paramedics decontaminated 62 employees overnight but fire crews unable to identify chemical

CBC News

October 06, 2017

Paramedics and fire crews remained at the scene of a suspected chemical spill at a North York recycling facility Friday morning. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Paramedics and firefighters spent the night decontaminating more than 60 employees after a chemical spill at a recycling facility in North York overnight.

Emergency crews were called to Canada Fibers Ltd. at 124 Arrow Road, in the area of Highway 400 and Finch Avenue, around midnight. A special paramedic unit known as the CBRN crew, which stands for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, was on hand to treat workers.

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The crew has showers in which to scrub down workers who may have been exposed. That work wrapped up around 5 a.m., paramedics told CBC Toronto.

Five patients were transported to hospital with minor injuries.

Workers on a line that separates materials from blue box recycling bins began suffering from respiratory problems, according to Stephan Powell, Toronto Fire Services District Chief.

When fire crews arrived at the scene, they set up a decontamination zone and evacuated the building. Crews were also sent in with air-quality monitoring equipment, Powell said.

They found high readings for particulate matter, he said, and immediately began ventilating the building. However, the source of the poor air quality could not be determined.

"It's quite possible that it is common household items that mixed together on this recycling line that caused the problem," Powell said. 

Fire crews and paramedics responded to a call for a chemical spill in North York overnight. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

A new fire crew coming on for the day shift will go in to the plant to re-test the air, he said. The line will also be re-started to see if the problem persists. If it doesn't, fire crews will leave the scene. If it does, work will continue to determine the cause.

Employee Sharon Morris said that once workers started feeling ill, everything happened quickly.

"People just started coughing and sneezing and they said we had to get out right away," Morris told CBC Toronto. She and others had to strip down, put their clothes in bags and get washed off.

Meanwhile, Powell had a warning for residents filling their recycling boxes.

"What you throw out in your blue box, it's important that it's empty and you don't throw out full containers," he said.

"If you were to mix certain common household cleaning substances together, you can create a very noxious gas mixture that could be very dangerous to humans."

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