By Kevin Swayze
The Guelph Mercury
WATERLOO, Canada — Eight people were taken to hospital after a suspected formaldehyde gas leak at a Waterloo auto parts factory Monday morning.
In all, 40 people were assessed by Waterloo Region paramedics outside of Ultra Manufacturing.
Four people were sent to hospital by taxi before paramedics arrived, said John Prno, director of regional emergency medical services.
Waterloo firefighters evacuated the plant as paramedics checked on the workers.
"We just wanted to make sure it was safe for everybody," said Platoon Chief Mark Schedewitz.
According to Waterloo Regional Police, staff exposed to the chemical had minor injuries.
The factory makes plastic auto parts. A detailed company investigation is underway to find out what went wrong, said Ultra president Joe D'Angelo.
"It appears two incompatible chemicals were mixed, which released a gas," he said.
Firefighters used self-contained breathing gear to enter the factory to take air samples. All initial tests came back clear, said Deputy Fire Chief Richard Hepditch. The gas released in the production area was confirmed to be formaldehyde, according to Schedewitz.
Exposure to formaldehyde can cause nausea, eye and lung irritation. Symptoms can appear up to 48 hours later.
Experts at the University of Waterloo were consulted, he said. A private company with specialized air testing equipment was called to take more samples in the early afternoon, to ensure the building was safe for workers to re-enter.
The Ontario Ministry of Labour sent an inspector to the factory to take over the investigation.
By noon, firefighters allowed workers to enter the opposite end of the sprawling building, to ship some auto parts needed by Toyota. According to an email from an Ultra Manufacturing spokesperson, the facility was re-opened fully at 3 p.m. Monday.
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