Nine people taken to hospital after possible exposure to mystery chemical


HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. - It was a normal afternoon at the Rural Health Consortium in Rogersville, as a man arrived for a routine doctors appointment. Soon after, staff member began falling ill.

"When we went in, we actually observed at least three nurses pretty much on the floor that were sick," says Rogersville chief of police Doug Nelson.

Rogersville police immediately alerted the Kingsport Fire Department Hazmat Team, treating the situation as a potential chemical exposure due to the symptoms of the staff.

"Symptoms Iike, lightheaded, sick, like they were going to pass out kind of feeling, couldn't breath. So, they started transporting all of them to the hospital," Chief Nelson says.

The Kingsport Fire Department Hazmat Team tested the air quality and surfaces at the Rural Health Consortium building and each patient's clothing, but no trace of harmful chemicals was found.

"From the time they're exposed to the time we actually start testing this could have dissipated. We know that the gentleman in question has been doing stripping and waxing floors, so it could be something associated with stripping and waxing the floors," says Chief Deputy of the Kingsport Fire Department Jim Everhart.

The Rural Health Consortium was evacuated for a couple hours, but reopened after an all-clear from the hazmat team. Patients at the hospital were treated and released.

"These patients went through the decontamination process which included their clothing and their skin being cleansed and washed appropriately to ensure any chemical residue was removed from them," says President of Hawkins County Memorial Hospital Rebecca Beck.

After a search of the man's home, Rogersville police say no illegal substances or harmful chemicals were found. It's still unclear what this mystery chemical is, and where it came from.