TAMPA - Ybor City's branch post office was evacuated and nearly two dozen workers treated for exposure to a suspected hazardous material Monday morning after a worker handled a leaking package.
Tampa Fire Rescue arrived at the post office, 1900 E. 12th Ave. after workers reported the problem at about 10:15 a.m. The department's hazmat team set up a decontamination center a block away between 21st and 22nd streets while fire crews examined the building for potential threats.
Fire Rescue spokesman Capt. Lonnie Benniefield said about 20 workers complained of irritated skin and other symptoms after the package was discovered. Only one worker actually came into contact with the material, which turned out to be eucalyptus oil, Benniefield said.
Another worker got bleach in his eye trying to clean up the oil, Benniefield said. Strong-smelling eucalyptus oil has a wide variety of medicinal properties and is commonly used in liniments and as an inhaler to help relieve congestion.
The Ybor City post office delivers to about 15,000 residential addresses and 3,000 business. It also has more than 1,500 P.O. box customers, said Enola Rice, spokeswoman for the postal system's central Florida division.
The spill closed the post office for about four hours. It reopened at 2:30 p.m.
During the city's response to the spill, each of the 20 workers passed through the fire department's mobile decontamination unit.
Once inside, they passed their clothes through a metal vent in the side of the trailer. The clothes dropped into a black plastic bag, which was then sealed with duct tape.
The workers left the trailer wearing a white, Tyvek suit and yellow or red booties. A HART bus stood by ready to take the entire crew to a hospital for care. Benniefield said the bus and hospital visit were a standard part of the city's response plan for mass casualties.
The workers were released without being hospitalized after hazmat crews determined the material was harmless.
Exposure to eucalyptus oil can cause skin irritation, rash, or asthma-like symptoms.
Police said one employee was treated at scene for a mild asthma attack.