People who work by fire at Detroit warehouse filled with medical waste report medical problems

Detroit (WXYZ) - Just as Seven Action News was about to expose the fact that someone was storing boxes of medical waste in an unsecured Detroit warehouse, the warehouse went up in flames.

Now people who work nearby say since the fire on September 26, they are getting sick. 

"I've never had asthma, and I couldn't breathe," said Vaughnia Vega, who says she has been sick since the fire.

She isn't the only one. Bridging Communities Executive Director Phyllis Edwards says Vega is only one of several workers who got sick with blisters, cellulitis, or respiratory problems right after the fire.   

"Something needs to be done," said Edwards.

One doctor said a worker had symptoms associated with breathing in formaldehyde vapors.

"We want to know what was in that building.  What exactly was being stored there?  Would this be allowed in another community?" asked Edwards.

Seven Action News tracked down Raoul Mangrum, the man who told us on the day of the fire he did own the building and stored the waste there for his company Biochem Technical Services.  On that day he admitted to storing it instead of disposing of it properly, but said it was only simple medical office waste, such as sharps and gauze. 

Today he admitted there was more than that there, possibly human tissue discarded as medical waste.  We asked if he was storing the remains of fetuses.  He didn't deny it, and said only that there was hazardous medical waste. Mangrum said what was being stored there was not dangerous, and that there were no chemicals being stored.

"Somebody burned the building, so however they're getting sick, they're getting sick from the fire which I had nothing to do with," said Raoul Mangrum.

The Detroit Crime Commission wants to know, if that is the case, why did Mangrum wear a full hazmat suit when he came to the building in the days after the fire to pick up some of what he stored. 

The Commission is a group of private investigators funded by private companies and donations.  Its goal is to gather evidence to help lead to convictions of criminals in Detroit.  They gather evidence, hand it over to police, and then let the system work. 

The Commission recorded undercover video of Mangrum loading boxes into a truck, then taking them away. 

Investigators followed him and say he put them in the garage of a residential vacant home in Detroit.

When 7 Action News confronted him about this, he denied it.

"I know what I saw," said Ellis Stafford of the Detroit Crime Commission.

The medical waste should be taken to the incinerator.

The commission says it has learned while looking into this that there are not regulations that allow for medical waste to be tracked after it is picked up from medical facilities, so as to ensure it is taken to an incinerator.

Seven Action News contacted State Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Southwest Detroit).  She contacted investigators about the waste being stored before the fire, and has been trying to get answers as to what happened.  She said she is going to talk to prosecutors to ensure there are consequences for Mangrum because of the way he has been handing waste through his company.

So far he is not facing charges in connection to the warehouse or the fire.  Detroit Police Arson Investigators say he is not a suspect in the fire.

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