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Southampton Sainsbury's evacuation 'not caused by refrigerant'

Sainsbury’s has told RAC that following investigations it ‘has ruled out refrigerant gas’ as the cause of an incident that saw its Hedge End store evacuated and 60 people examined for respiratory problems

The evacuation at Sainsbury’s Hedge End store near Southampton saw over 60 people examined by paramedics and one person taken to hospital after breathing in some sort of gas.

Media and fire brigade reports had up until this evening blamed the problem on a refrigerant leak, but because Hedge End is one of the retailer’s stores that runs on carbon dioxide, the accounts of respiratory difficulty were treated warily by many in the industry.

Hundreds of customers and staff were evacuated from both the Sainsbury’s and the adjacent Marks and Spencer store, which shares the same heating duct with the supermarket’s food shop, at around 5pm on Tuesday 17 September.

A shopper Richard Hillier, told reporters: “I was walking past one of the aisles and noticed a few people coughing. As I walked past them I began coughing and haven’t stopped. Basically, it feels like a frog in the throat that can’t be cleared”

Sainsbury’s said that investigations into what did cause the alert are ongoing, but that it was satisfied that it was not the refrigerant. It has alerted the fire brigade, which had been telling reporters that it had been identified as a ‘non-toxic refrigerant leak’.

A spokeswoman for Marks and Spencer said a total of 100 staff had been evacuated from the store, of which 40 had been treated as a precaution.”

After the alarm was raised, firefighters wearing breathing apparatus entered the Sainsbury’s store to examine it and the area around the shops was cordoned off.

A Sainsbury’s spokesman said the Hedge End store was closed overnight

“However following air quality checks the emergency services confirmed the site was safe.”

Readers' comments (6)

  • Do we know what it was then and we presume that the reports of the CO2 detectors going off are incorrect?

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  • What about this info in this case ?
    CO2 confirmed as refrigerant in Sainsbury's leak
    http://cooling-post.blogspot.be/2013/09/co2-confirmed-as-refrigerant-in.html

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  • What about this info in this case ?
    CO2 confirmed as refrigerant in Sainsbury's leak
    http://cooling-post.blogspot.be/2013/09/co2-confirmed-as-refrigerant-in.html

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  • So......if it wasn't CO2 what was it? High concentrations of CO2 at a high pressure will certainly cause respiratory issues even if it is not toxic

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  • The above shows the problems with online news!
    The story was posted before Sainsbury's issued its statement, and was based on the Fire Service initial record, but it hasnt been updated.
    Sainsbury's remains adamant that it wasn't refrigerant, and says that it is still investigating what the cause actually was.
    The possibilty that CO2 could cause respiratory problems is undisputed, but in this case, it wasnt the cause, according to those on site.

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  • Just to clarify... the Sainsbury's 'not refrigerant' statement is the most recent on the subject. Other websites have not been updated since.
    Early reports assumed it was refrgierant as the incident was located by one of the display cabinets,but the retailer stands by its conclusion that it was not a refrigerant leak that caused the problems.
    Investgations are continuing.

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