Unusual Odor Sends Hazmat Crews to Morgue

Fumes overcome three workers

Off-putting odors are common at the morgue but particularly noxious fumes coming from a body during a post-mortem exam on the Peninsula today raised alarms and made some workers sick.

The San Mateo Fire Department received a call from workers at the San Mateo Medical Center morgue at about 11 a.m. Thursday, saying a body they were working on started emitting an unusual foul odor when they opened it up.

A representative from San Mateo Fire Department said an acetone-type of odor came from the body during the exam. It seems the patient, who died at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Redwood City, had ingested the colorless flammable liquid, San Mateo  County Health System spokeswoman Robyn Thaw said.

Two lab technicians and a clerk logging the coroner's report were overcome by the fumes, complaining of headaches and light-headedness, the representative said. Medical experts were evaluating the trio.

The morgue was evacuated and closed but the adjoining hospital was not affected.

The hazmat incident commander said that he has heard of similar incidents but they are uncommon.

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