Chemical scare at mall

A jug of flammable material in a returned rental car caused an emergency response in Deptford.

Posted: August 20, 2007

A gallon jug of a highly flammable industrial chemical left in the trunk of a returned rental car prompted a major hazardous-materials response at the Deptford Mall yesterday.

Two Avis Rental Car Co. employees and a Deptford police officer were overcome by fumes from the chemical, but they quickly recovered. The suspicious substance was reported at 11:17 a.m.

The area around the rental company and an adjacent Sears Auto Center, next to the mall, was cordoned off and quarantined, and a throng of emergency response vehicles stood by as officials tried to identify the chemical.

It was later determined to be xylene, a highly flammable and toxic chemical that occurs naturally in crude oil but that is also produced by refining oil. It is used in cleaning solvents and paints, among many other uses.

The person who rented the sedan and returned the keys in an after-hours drop-box Saturday night had yet to be located late yesterday afternoon, police said.

An FBI hazardous materials team was on the scene and a decontamination tent was set up.

But the mall was not evacuated.

Contact staff writer Robert Moran at 215-854-5983 or

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