Hazardous material scare at the hospital

No danger found in substance

As one Gunnison Valley Hospital (GVH) employee can attest, there are hazards to getting into seasonal decorations too early.



According to a press release from the hospital, emergency responders were called to GVH in Gunnison late Monday morning after an employee was thought to have come into contact with a hazardous material.
While handling mail, the employee came into contact with a “powdery substance,” which resulted in “a burning sensation of the skin,” the release said.
As a result, the hospital went into “lock down” and responders from five area departments were dispatched to the hospital, including the Gunnison County and Gunnison City fire departments, Gunnison Valley Hospital EMS, Gunnison/Crested Butte Regional Airport fire department, and Gunnison County Hazardous Response.
“A two-member hazardous materials team entered the mailroom of the hospital in full green protection suits to collect the mail with the substance,” the release said.
Several envelopes containing the substance were found with a matching return address, leading investigators with the Gunnison Police department to contact law enforcement in Vancouver, Washington.
There, detectives confirmed that the envelopes were sent from a software company as part of a marketing campaign and the powdery substance was in fact SnoWonder, a brand of artificial snow used for decoration.
The hospital was reopened around 2 p.m., with the entire response lasting less than three hours.
As part of the response, more than 100 people were evacuated from the hospital, including 40 who were required to disrobe and take decontamination showers in a designated area outside the hospital.
Exposure to the substance was confined to the business and administrative wing on the south side of the building, where the mail room is located.
An incident command and staging area was established on Denver Avenue between Iowa and Taylor Streets and police established a one-block perimeter around the hospital with yellow tape.
“Gunnison County Incident Command made several attempts to locate Hazardous Material transportation to the Public Health State Lab in Denver. All avenues were explored by the command including a Colorado based U.S. military air wing, the Colorado State Patrol, a Montrose based hazmat transportation team and others,” the press release said.
Tuesday, Santa Cruz, California-based SnoWonder revised the description of the product on its website to say, “SnoWonder is a polymer powder that is Non Toxic, Non Hazardous, and has been used and shipped worldwide by us since 2001… The polymer family is also used in Baby Disposable Diapers; it is that safe.”
According to the hospital’s press release, the full expense of the response will be forwarded to the software company.

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