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Teachers, students become sick at New Haven school after being exposed to a pepper spray-like substance

Two teachers and 12 students were checked by medical staff at the school and later transported to Yale New Haven Hospital as a precaution.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A school in New Haven was evacuated Thursday morning after a reported hazmat situation that sent 12 students and two teachers to the hospital as a precaution, officials said.

The New Haven Fire Department was called to Wexler Grant School on Foote Street around 10:30 a.m. Thursday on a report that something in the air was making people sick and their eyes water. Other symptoms included scratchy throats.

The airborne irritant was later determined to be a defensive spray - such as mace - that was found in a cubby inside one classroom. School officials said the classroom in question was being vented and cleaned.

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Two teachers and 12 students were checked by medical staff at the school and later transported to Yale New Haven Hospital as a precaution, officials said.

"They began treatment of the complaints - the people who were complaining of some irritation in the throat and eyes. That began to quickly dissipate once they were out of the affected area," said Assistant Fire Chief Justin McCarthy of the New Haven Fire Department.

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Those who felt sick were treated on the scene and transported to Yale New Haven Hospital.

The fire department then began to find out what was the cause of their symptoms when the school cleared out.

"We brought in specialized meters and began to isolate down to a specific cubby area," added Asst. Chief McCarthy.

McCarthy told FOX61 there were remnants of what appeared to be pepper spray or mace in a cubby, something that is normally meant to store a student's belongings.

The actual canister is still being looked for and officials will be looking into where it came from and how it entered the school.

However, Mayor Elicker said today was not the first time these symptoms were heard of.

"One of the teachers and a student yesterday also had some symptoms. A teacher had a scratchy throat. She thought it was unrelated to any potential issue in the classroom. One of the students had a bloody nose," said Mayor Justin Elicker of the City of New Haven.

A spokesperson for Yale New Haven Hospital said all students were eventually released back to their parents to go home.

Fortunately, no one experienced any life-threatening symptoms or injuries.

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Doug Stewart is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. He can be reached at dstewart@fox61.com.

Carmen Chau is an anchor and reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at cchau@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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