At least three of 13 people exposed to Freon at Giant Food's main warehouse in Landover were in critical condition last night with serious respiratory problems, according to an emergency room doctor at Prince George's Hospital Center.
Dr. Meera Kanhouwa said the victims were admitted after being exposed to the leaking chemical at Giant's ice-making warehouse at 6400 Sheriff Road.
Among the injured were five Prince George's County firefighters, who responded to the warehouse after the 8: 20 p.m. incident.
Names of the victims -- who range in age from 23 to 60 and include at least one woman -- were not immediately available.
Kanhouwa said symptoms of inhaling the refrigerant, which can be fatal, include difficulty breathing, frozen tissue and cardiac failure.
All of those exposed to the gas experienced nausea and headaches, she said.
Barry F. Scher, a Giant spokesman, said officials were looking for the cause of the leak in the 25,000-square-foot ice-making plant late last night.
The problem was discovered, Scher said, when a maintenance worker went into the plant to check on an alarm. When he did not return after about a half-hour, four other workers looked for him.
Finding the maintenance worker passed out, they dragged him out of the building and paramedics were called, Scher said.
"We've had minor leaks before, but this is a major one," said Scher, stressing that none of the company's ice cubes were contaminated by the leak.
Pub Date: 12/16/98