SJ ER Shut Down for Hours After Mystery Odor

Odor was hydrogen sulfide

Parts of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose shut down Thursday because of a hazardous materials scare. 

A teenager was taken to the emergency room after being exposed to what authorities later said was hydrogen sulfide. The material made the teen lose consciousness, a fire captain said.  The teen was listed in critical condition.

The incident prompted a quarantine of the entire emergency room at the hospital.

The teen was transported to the medical center without being decontaminated, which may have exposed others to the hazardous material.

Hospital officials said 37 employees were potentially exposed as well as 46 patients.  All of those people also had to be decontaminated as well as some of the officers at the house.

What is Hydrogen Sulfide?

Hydrogen sulfide is a flammable, colorless gas with a characteristic odor of rotten eggs. It is commonly known as hydrosulfuric acid, sewer gas, and stink damp.

The decontamination consists of washing those who may have been exposed with soap and hot water, removing their clothes and giving them new clothes.

Exposure to low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide may cause irritation to the eyes, nose, or throat. It may also cause difficulty in breathing for some asthmatics. Brief exposures to high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide (greater than 500 ppm) can cause a loss of consciousness and possibly death.

The incident started as a report of a smell at a home on Yucca Avenue near the intersection of Foxworthy and Merdian Avenues.  The teen in the home may have been exposed to something hazardous and that trickled down to the people who treated him as well as the people who came in contact with the first responders.

News helicopters over the emergency entrance showed people in green hazmat suits walking around the outside of the building.  A different shot showed a large number of emergency personel at the home on Yucca Avenue.

It is not clear what if any hazardous materials anyone came in contact with.

Anyone who is in need of emergency care is being directed to the hospital's urgent care unit.  If they are in need of more care, ambulances are available to take them to another hospital.

Four police officers came in contact with the teenager at the house and they are also being decontaminated, Stallard said.

The teenager's mom was decontaminated at the scene.

Six households in the area were also evacuated.

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