ROBBINSVILLE — Fire and rescue crews responded to report of fumes that hospitalized dozens at an Amazon fulfillment center on Wednesday morning.

Eighty people fled about 9 a.m. from the third floor near the south entrance of the  warehouse on New Canton Way off Route 539 after an accidental release of bear repellent, according to township spokesman John Nalbone.

The area of the release was isolated and operations continued in the rest of the facility.

Robbinsville Fire and EMS crews set up a triage outside to care for affected workers.

A total of 54 people were exposed to the repellent with 24 people hospitalized, Nalbone said, one in critical condition. Thirty other people were treated and released on site by EMS personnel. Most suffered from eye irritation or respiratory problems.

Robbinsville fire chief Dan Schaffner told New Jersey 101.5 the repellent was released from a single aerosol container on a conveyor belt that possibly fell off. Schaffner said the spray contained capsaicin, a potent form of pepper spray, to ward off aggressive or charging bears.

Amazon sells several types of bear repellent on its website.

The Robbinsville fulfillment center operates 24 hours a day and during the Christmas holiday season employs more than 2,500 workers.

“Today at our Robbinsville fulfillment center, a damaged aerosol can dispensed strong fumes in a contained area of the facility," Amazon spokeswoman Rachel Lighty said in a statement. "The safety of our employees is our top priority, and as such, all employees in that area have been relocated to safe place and employees experiencing symptoms are being treated onsite. As a precaution, some employees have been transported to local hospitals for evaluation and treatment. We appreciate the swift response of our local responders."

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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