Drugs, Other Risks Ruled Out at Prison Where Dozens Got Sick


An Illinois State Police hazardous materials team responded Wednesday afternoon to Graham Correctional Center in Hillsboro, 65 miles (105 kilometers) northeast of St. Louis after staff members responding to an inmate “medical incident” were sickened, according to Department of Corrections spokesperson Naomi Puzzello.

State police retrieved two substances found at the site, a nasal spray and powder, Puzzello said.

“The substances were identified as nonhazardous” Puzzello said, and didn’t require hospitalization or a call for emergency responders to bring naloxone hydrochloride, a prescription drug that acts to reverse an opioid overdose.

“But IDOC works diligently to ensure the safety of both incarcerated individuals and employees and worked swiftly to ensure everyone had access to the care they requested,” she said.

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Chemicals identified in substances taken from the prison, however, can irritate respiratory functions, along with contributing to other problems.

Puzzello said preliminary tests found that the nasal spray contained acetaminophen. It is a common pain reliever which may cause drowsiness and dizziness.

The powder was common baby powder containing aluminum phosphate, which is also dental cements, cosmetics, paints, paper and pharmaceuticals, and can be a nose, throat and lung irritant.

The powder also contained ethylpyrrole, which the U.S. Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration labels as a hazard to the respiratory system.

And it had benzene, which is harmful to the eyes, skin, airway, nervous system and lungs, according to OSHA.

Puzzello, who has not responded to requests to answer questions from The Associated Press, did not say in what quantities the compounds were found. She has not specified how many inmates were involved, where in the prison they were or what signs they were exhibiting which caught a prison staff member’s attention.

State police testing on clothing continued Thursday, but Puzzello did not say whose clothing.

In addition to the inmates, whom Puzzello says are in the prison’s health care unit, 22 staff members were treated at four area hospitals, said Anders Lindall, spokesperson for the Corrections’ employee union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31.

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