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Chemical odor prompts building evacuation

Pepper spray released inside Convergys Corporation

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Over 100 employees of a Southside business were evacuated after a small amount of pepper spray was released in a contained area Thursday evening.

The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department received the call just after 6 p.m. in reference to a strong chemical odor at Convergys Corporation on Baymeadows Way.

Officials said they had to evacuate the second floor of the building because pepper spray negatively affects the respiratory system and could cause major health problems.

People who were in the building at the time told News4Jax they were having trouble breathing and experienced eye irritation.

About 20 minutes prior to closing, employees inside the building were complaining of watery eyes, coughing and irritation. As a precaution the company sent everyone home early, according to Joe Thornton, the director of communications at Convergys.

JFRD transported eight people to the hospital because of minor respiratory concerns.

Four engines, several EMTs and hazmat crews responded to the scene.

Officials said they don't believe this was intentional, but the cause is still unknown.

Employees will be able to return to Convergys Friday.

Thornton said there were 500 people working inside the building at the time, and 40 people were near where the chemical was reported.

Convergys operates call centers all over the world and the Jacksonville location is one of the largest in the U.S.