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Chemical Leak At Durham YMCA Sends Dozens To Hospitals

Firefighters respond to a chlorine leak at the downtown Durham YMCA on August 2, 2017.
Jason deBruyn
Firefighters respond to a chlorine leak at the downtown Durham YMCA on August 2, 2017.

A chemical leak in the pool area of the Downtown Durham YMCA caused 42 people – 40 of them kids – to suffer a range of respiratory and nausea issues Thursday afternoon.

Six children were initially deemed to be in serious condition after the chemical sodium hypochlorite, commonly known as bleach, leaked. They improved after being sent to Duke University Hospital, according to officials. Most of the other children and two adults were sent to Duke and Durham Regional as a precaution.

Officials determined the cause of the leak was a mechanical issue with the pool pump, according to YMCA officials.

"We did have six children that were initially serious on the scene but were later downgraded in the emergency room," said Durham County EMS Assistant Director Brandon Mitchell.

The initial 911 call described a "respiratory problem" with one of the individuals. About 100 kids from the YMCA camp based at Club Boulevard Elementary School had been swimming  in the pool and had already been transferred back to the school.

EMS arrived at the school and found kids suffering a range of respiratory issues and vomiting. They eventually sent 40 children to the hospital.

"I do want to assure our members and participants that we take every measure possible to ensure safety for our pool and our participants," said Forrest Perry, regional vice president of the YMCA of the Triangle. "Certainly safety is our number one priority."

The downtown YMCA will reopen at noon Thursday.

Reporters Jason deBruyn and Liz Schlemmer contributed to this report.

Dave DeWitt is WUNC's Feature News Editor. As an editor, reporter, and producer he's covered politics, environment, education, sports, and a wide range of other topics.
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