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Chemical accident sickens 54 in Bohemia

Emergency members pack after the CWG building, located

Emergency members pack after the CWG building, located at 116 Wilbur Place in Bohemia, is under control after several employees became sick due to new cleaning supplies used in the building. (August 18, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday/Jessica Rotkiewicz

Fumes unleashed by an accidental mixing of chemicals sickened 54 workers at a cellphone refurbishing plant in Bohemia Thursday, Suffolk authorities said.

The workers from CWG Communications were treated for symptoms including convulsions, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath and vomiting, police said.

The nonlethal fumes were released into the air after the company deployed a new cleaning solution for the first time, but didn't completely purge the equipment of the old solution, creating the chemical reaction that sickened the workers.

The company uses the fluid in the cellphone refurbishing process, which typically involves cleaning old phones, repairing them and swapping necessary parts.

"Those two chemicals were combined," said Insp. Stuart Cameron, a Suffolk police supervisor on the case. Police said the Islip Town fire marshal will investigate the leak. Police reported CWG to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal workplace safety regulator. A call to OSHA wasn't returned Thursday. Several people who said they worked at CWG and were not harmed by the fumes would not comment on the incident.

Rescuers first went to the scene at about 12:30 p.m. after a 911 call reporting that a female worker was unconscious, said Dr. Scott Coyne, chief surgeon and medical director for the Suffolk police, who was on the scene Thursday.

He said as emergency crews arrived, they encountered dozens of employees who had become sickened.

Coyne said he and other physicians called to the scene to assist set up a triage area where they treated victims.

All of the patients were in stable condition and some had either already been discharged or were undergoing tests, Coyne said Thursday night.

Victims were taken to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center, Stony Brook University Medical Center and Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip.

CWG moved to its 90,000-square-foot headquarters in late 2009 from a smaller facility in Holbrook. The building is two stories and in an industrial office park.

CWG's customers include Sprint Nextel, Verizon, LG and Motorola, according to the website.

With Paul LaRocco, Bill Mason and William Murphy

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