KNOXVILLE (WATE) - About 25 employees of an East Knoxville recycling plant were evacuated Thursday afternoon after exposure to tear gas.
As many as eight workers were exposed to the non-lethal chemical at Scott Recycling, 5049 S. National Drive, in the Forks of the River Industrial Park.
Two emergency responders were also treated for exposure to the chemicals.
The leak happened when a worker opened an unmarked jar containing a yellow powder.
Scott Recycling owner Dan Scott told 6 News a customer mistakenly sent the tear gas canister with some electronic equipment intended for recycling.
"Apparently this was just a small jar and that's the reason we don't think this is probably anything serious," Scott said. "We are going to take all the precautions to make sure us and our community remain safe."
The workers affected reported burning in their eyes, nose and throat.
Dave Pittman, a compliance officer at Scott Recycling, said he wasn't inside the warehouse when the chemical was released, but felt the effects outside on the loading dock.
"All of the sudden on the dock my nose started burning like fire and my eyes started burning a little bit," he said.
The contamination was contained to the building, so no additional evacuations were necessary.
Employees who did not have to be decontaminated were sent home.
Scott said there should not have been any chemicals in the facility because they aren't used in the recycling of electronics.
He said they have never had an incident like this before.
The canister was apparently shipped from Mississippi, but was likely sent by mistake.
Knox County sheriff's investigators are looking into who owned the canister.
According to the company's website, the facility is used to recycle electronic equipment and dispose of toxic, obsolete, electronic waste.
The company owns four recycling centers and has been in business since 1994.