About 25 workers and patients were treated for nausea, stinging eyes and headaches after two leaks of toxic gas were detected Wednesday--one in the morning and another in the evening--at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Woodland Hills.
The leaks involved ethylene oxide, which is used to sterilize surgical equipment in a sealed chamber.
At 9:30 a.m., an employee opened the door to one such chamber in the hospital basement when an alarm sounded, a hospital spokesman said. Workers retreated from the area. A dozen employees were washed down outside the hospital in inflatable wading pools to guard against further contamination.
Fire officials who tested the area at 12:30 p.m. said the area was free of the gas.
A Second Leak
But about 6:30 p.m., another leak was detected. Several patients, including one bedridden patient and two more in wheelchairs, were among 75 people evacuated from the basement, emergency room and first floor of the hospital.
Officials said the gas apparently spread through the ventilation to the other areas of the hospital. Fifteen fire engine companies responded to the call for assistance.
Emergency calls were diverted to other area hospitals during the emergencies.
"Very low levels" of ethylene oxide have been shown to cause cancer in animals, said Jose Ochoa, senior industrial hygienist with the Hazardous Waste Control Program of the Los Angeles County Health Department, which investigated the incident.