Children, Adults Hospitalized After Chemical Exposure at Md. Camp

July 10--Six children remained hospitalized Wednesday night after campers and counselors were exposed to dangerous concentrations of pool chemicals at an Edgewater summer camp, a camp spokeswoman said.

Some 31 campers and four counselors were hospitalized Wednesday morning after swimming in the pool at YMCA Camp Letts. At least half of those children were on their way home by Wednesday afternoon, said Jackie Dilworth, spokeswoman for YMCA of Metropolitan Washington.

None of the children or their counselors suffered life-threatening injuries. Dilworth said those hospitalized were having respiratory issues.

A pump that regulates chemicals in the camp swimming pool malfunctioned, said Carla Larrick, vice president of operations for YMCA of Metropolitan Washington.

"The pump went out, probably due to the storm that took place (Tuesday) night," Larrick said.

When the pump restarted, it put an excessive concentration of chemicals into the pool, and the vapors were inhaled by campers swimming at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Larrick said. Officials didn't know how long the children were exposed.

Counselors immediately had the children shower, so the chemicals didn't injure their skin, said Capt. Mike Pfaltzgraff of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department.

Dilworth said the camp pool would remain closed Thursday.

As news of the incident spread Wednesday morning, worried mothers arrived at the camp, watching as ambulances that might be carrying their sons and daughters drove past.

"Not knowing if your kid is in there is really scary," said Heather Sandell of Annapolis. Her 12-year-old son, Jack, is attending the camp.

The mothers arrived before officials had compiled a list of injured campers and alerted all parents.

"You haven't seen 'Sandell' on anything yet, have you?" Heather Sandell asked a police officer.

The officer shook his head. "No, which is a good thing."

Eight patients were taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, 18 were taken to Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Bunie, two were taken to Queen Anne's Emergency Center in Queenstown and seven were taken to Anne Arundel Medical Center.

The patients received treatment at different places so as not to overwhelm any one hospital, Pfaltzgraff said.

Just before 10 a.m. Wednesday the fire department received 911 calls about children suffering from nausea and vomiting at Camp Letts. By 11 a.m., all the injured children and counselors had left the camp.

Still, the mothers waited for a chance to see their children.

"Parents just get nervous," Sandell said.

Her son wasn't among those injured.

"I want to see firsthand," she said.

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