FOUL FUMES HOSPITALIZE 5, FORCE CLOSURE OF BUILDING - The Buffalo News

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FOUL FUMES HOSPITALIZE 5, FORCE CLOSURE OF BUILDING

A portion of Delaware Avenue was closed for nearly two hours this morning, and five people were taken to the hospital after fumes from a concrete sealant invaded an office building.

The two-floor, red-facade structure at 737 Delaware Ave., housing Duchscherer Oberst Design PC architectural firm and the Mercantile Adjustment Bureau collection agency, was evacuated shortly after 9 a.m. after several employees fell victim to headache, nausea or vomiting.

"It smelled very similar to a primer paint. It irritated your throat," said Patti Booker, a supervisor with the collection agency. "Those were some serious chemicals."

Laura Zaepfel, the public relations manager for Uniland Development Co., which owns the building, said the company took significant precautions in its approach to the work.

"Apparently some lingering fumes had caused a reaction in some of the people occupying the building," Ms. Zaepfel said. "We tried to get this done after hours with very extensive ventilation using non-toxic materials."

The sealant was applied after business hours Wednesday by a North Tonawanda contracting firm in the building's basement where the parking garage is located.

After workers were taken ill this morning, the Buffalo Fire Department and city hazardous materials team were called to the scene.

Fire officials immediately isolated the building and evacuated its more than 40 employees, according to Joe La Marca, Fire Department battalion chief. Delaware Avenue was blocked to traffic between Summer and North streets between about 9:15 and 11 a.m.

"The sealant was put down last night and apparently got into the duct system and onto the first floor," La Marca said.

Four employees were transported by ambulance to Erie County Medical Center for observation, and another went to the hospital via automobile. None of the symptoms was expected to be life-threatening, fire officials said.

Authorities for Uniland said the building would remain vacant today and extensively ventilated. It is expected to reopen for business Friday.

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