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Published: Wednesday, 3/8/2006

25 postal workers sickened

Firefighters in HAZMAT suits monitor the air outside the post office in Point Place. Firefighters in HAZMAT suits monitor the air outside the post office in Point Place.

Fewer than a dozen of the 25 employees at the Point Place post office returned to work yesterday after they were sickened by an odor that smelled similar to diesel fuel and were taken to a hospital.

All the employees are expected to return to work pending checkups this morning at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, where 19 of them were treated, said Eric Simon, customer service operations manager. Three went by ambulance; the rest by a TARTA bus.

Fire Chief Mike Bell said workers complained of upset stomachs, sore throats, and burning eyes during the incident at 4445 North Summit St. Some had runny eyes and breathing issues, said Mike Fortunato, acting postmaster in Toledo.

Mr. Fortunato said workers called postal maintenance then the fire department after noticing the odor about 8:15 a.m. They evacuated the building. Firefighters, a few in HAZMAT suits, monitored the air inside and outside the building and found nothing toxic. Nothing turned up in the storm or sanitary sewers, Deputy Fire Chief Bob Metzger said.

Shortly after the incident, Chief Bell said truck exhaust may have been drawn into the building's ventilation system. Chief Metzger later said officials speculate the odor was caused by a delivery truck that was left running at the back of the building.

Mr. Simon said that wasn't the case because the postal service doesn't allow vehicles to run unattended. He said it's unclear what caused the odor, but a few pieces of mail with distinct odors are being checked. The post office re-opened about three hours later and 25 to 30 workers from other offices helped deliver mail.

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