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Cracked glass at Orange company releases noxious fumes, sends three workers to hospital

— Three workers were sent to the hospital after a piece of equipment cracked and released noxious gases.

Shortly before 9 p.m., firefighters were called to the Rodney Hunt Co. on Mill Street, for a hazardous materials incident.

A glass lens on a metal-cutting laser cracked, and released gases into the air.

“The lens is coated in zinc selenide,” said Orange Fire Chief Dennis Annear. “When the lens cracked, the heat vaporized the minute amount of coating.” Annear said the lens did not send fragments flying when it cracked, and that everything was contained in the machine except the fumes.

Manufacturers of zinc selenide list the compound as toxic if swallowed or inhaled.

Annear said the three workers were taken to Athol Memorial Hospital for further evaluation, though their injuries were non life-threatening.

“The guys looked fine, but said they were feeling lightheaded, and had headaches from the fumes and gases,” said a Rodney Hunt who had been working near the laser equipment.

Annear said there were about 40 employees working in the building at the time of the incident. The incident occured in the company’s fabrication shop, one of several buildings on the Rodney Hunt property.

Firefighters gave workers the OK to return to the building, and left the scene at about 9:30 p.m.

Annear said his department has not had to respond to Rodney Hunt for any similar incidents, though they have occured.

“It happened previously, but nobody called us,” said Annear. “It’s not uncommon from what I gather. But this time, someone panicked, and called it in.” Names of the workers taken to the hospital were unavailable at press time.

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