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Sandra Yi reportingFire investigators say they now know what caused the chemical scare, at the L-D-S Church's Welfare Square, that sent sevem Deseret Industries' workers to the hosptial.
The mystery chemical turned out to be pepper spray, found in a bag containing donated shoes.
The D.I. production center is open again after being shut down for a little more than two hours.
Exactly what it was that made eleven people sick this afternoon, baffled fire officials for a while because they couldn't find a trace of anything. Then, they found a can of pepper spray that was inside a bag of donated shoes. Someone didn't know what was in the can and sprayed it. That person then put the pepper spray in the bag and closed it. The fumes spread when someone else opened the bag again.
Scott Freitag/Salt Lake City Fire Dept.: "THE SYMPTOMS THAT THE INDIVIDUALS THAT HAVE BEEN TRANSPORTED TO THE HOSPITAL AND HAVE BEEN SEEN HERE ON THE SCENE ARE COMMON FOR PEPPER SPRAY. THE NAUSEA, THE BURNING, THE DIFFICULT TO BREATH AND THE COUGHING."
40 to 50 D.I. workers were in the building when this happened, bundling donated clothes to be distributed. Seven people were decontaminated in the parking lot, and sent to local hospitals. Four others were evaluated. Their symptoms are not serious and should eventually go away, as is common when someone is exposed to pepper spray.
When asked if they get surprises here often, a manager said no. But they do have procedures in place to deal with these types of situations.