Mystery odor prompts evacuation of medical center

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SAN DIEGO — Emergency crews evacuated a three-story Sorrento Valley medical center Tuesday morning after people began complaining about an acrid smell that left them suffering from nausea, respiratory trouble and stinging eyes.

People began reporting an acrid odor and onsets of nausea, dizziness, stinging eyes and respiratory difficulty at Sharp Rees-Stealy Sorrento Mesa in the 10200 block of Genetic Center Drive about 8:30 a.m., according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

Firefighters evacuated all the occupants — more than 100 people — while medics evaluated those complaining of adverse reactions to the chemical smell, SDFRD spokesman Maurice Luque said. Ambulance crews took seven of the patients to hospitals for evaluation of their symptoms.

For their part, emergency crews smelled no foul odor upon their arrival to the clinic, and their air-quality sensors also detected no hazardous vapors, Luque said.

Investigators eventually determined that a problem with the building’s air-conditioning system apparently had caused a rubber belt to heat up and burn, sending caustic fumes throughout the building.

The center reopened for normal operations about 1 p.m., according to Sharp HealthCare officials.

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