When Cleaning Kills

A tragic event that occurred in a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Burlington, Massachusetts is a grave reminder of the importance in knowing what hazardous materials you are working with.

"The incident occurred [on November 7th] when one worker put a cleaning product called Super 8 — sodium hypochlorite — on the floor without realizing that another product, Scale Kleen, predominantly composed of acid, had tipped over and spilled onto the floor" said Interim Fire Chief Michael Patterson. "These two products are often used," he said, "but when they become mixed, that's when the problem occurs." After the two products mixed, the worker told firefighters the product turned green and started to bubble. "The general manager unfortunately grabbed a squeegee and tried to push it outside, but he was quickly overcome, he began having problems breathing." The general manager was rushed to hospital, where he later died. 13 others, including staff and customers, were also hospitalized, but are expected to make a full recovery. Source

Unfortunately, this incident is not as uncommon as one would hope. Below we share similar scenarios, where a mixture of cleaning products created a deadly outcome.

  • In 2002, a 58-year-old caretaker who worked in Scarborough, Ontario at Alexander Stirling Public School, passed away from acute chlorine gas intoxication as a result of mixing a toilet-bowl cleaner and a bleach-based cleaning product Source
  • In January of 2018, a 68-year-old from Grand Tower, Illinois died after mixing bleach with a commercial drain cleaner, resulting in the formation of a poisonous gas Source
  • A close call: A 36-year-old mom in the UK was rushed to hospital after using a near-lethal cocktail of chemicals in a steaming bucket. The mom combined Dettol, bleach and concentrated disinfectant, Zoflora, with hot water - creating a potent mixture. Her son phoned an ambulance, saving her life, when he heard her screams of pain. Source

Whether cleaning at work or at home the following combinations should always be AVOIDED:

  • AMMONIA and BLEACH - both can be found in a variety of cleaning products, so always check the label before using them together!
  • DRAIN CLEANERS - Mixing a combination of different drain cleaners can result in chlorine gas forming, and may lead to an explosion
  • BLEACH and TOILET BOWL CLEANER - Toilet bowl cleaner often contains an acidic-base, when mixed with bleach, toxic fumes are formed
  • DISH DETERGENT and BLEACH - Some dish-detergents contain ammonia, when mixed with bleach this creates toxic fumes
  • LEMON JUICE and BLEACH - Lemon is acidic, so mixing this with bleach results in toxic chlorine gas
  • PESTICIDES and WATER - Some pesticides when combined with water can create deadly phosphine gas

The above list is just some of the deadly mixtures when it comes to cleaning chemicals. In order to avoid a toxic concoction, it is best to never mix cleaning chemicals or products. And when it comes to work safety, always consult the SDS (Safety Data Sheet) before handling a product you are not familiar with.