West Hawaii Today is reporting that Kona Community Hospital’s Emergency Room was evacuated Thursday morning after chemical fumes apparently sickened 13 people. Employees reported smelling a strong odor around 8:30 a.m. That triggered a “code orange” response for hazardous materials. The hospital evacuated around 35 people who had been in the emergency room area. Hawaii Fire Department’s Hazardous Materials Team was called.
The event was triggered by an apparent leak of the chemical xylene, which is used in the hospital’s morgue and laboratory. Xylene is a flammable, colorless liquid used as a solvent or paint thinner. Hawaii Police Department tested the air and flammability levels in the hospital and deemed the area safe. The xylene was being transferred between containers.
Six patients and seven staff members were treated with supplemental oxygen and were monitored. A hospital spokesperson said none had injuries, and most were released by Thursday afternoon. The hospital emergency department reopened around 11 a.m. During the incident, incoming patients were still able to be treated.