Date: Mon, 7 Jun 2010 11:32:07 -0600
Reply-To: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: Alan Hall <ahalltoxic**At_Symbol_Here**MSN.COM>
Subject: Re: Chemical Safety headlines from Google
In-Reply-To: <a05200f03c832bddea673**At_Symbol_Here**[]>

This happened frequently when I was still affiliated with the Rocky Mountai n Poison and Drug Center in Denver.  Various times each year; some time as often as once a month.  We do have a national database on to xic exposures reported to Poison Centers which, if I remember correctly , does have some data on this.  I could ask about finding and post ing it if there is interest.  However, I really don't see how this would help unless we are planning a public information or a firefighter/HA ZMAT Team education campaign from D-CHAS, but I'm open to suggestions as a "newbie" EC member.
What often, tragically, happens is that a person mixes ammonia-based (N H3) and bleach-based (hypochlorite) or other types of drain cleaners in a small bathroom (think confined space, because many of them are and a bathroom fan isn't exactly an exhaust cabinet/hood), and they generate chloramine vapors (there are even cases in which generation of hydrogen sul fide (H2S) has occurred -- depending on what's where).  Chloramine i s a quite potent respiratory tract irritant.  Each year, we would have some deaths from this, from either acute upper airway irritation wit h glottic edema and occlusion (vocal cords swell shut so no air can be inhaled/exhaled), or a slightly delayed occurrence of non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema (the lungs leak the fluid part of blood plasma into the alv eoli -- air sacs where O2/CO2 exchange occurs in the lungs) a nd also results in a severe respiratory compromise and even death (t his isn't an easy condition to treat medically). 
Other drain cleaners may contrain relatively significant amounts of& nbsp;bases (various products may have up to 20% NaOH), and others conta in various acids.  You can go to Texas and buy muriati c acid in gallon jugs as a swimming pool chemical in supermarkets (I have d one so to do live chemical decontamination demonstrations).  I don't need to tell chemists what will happen when you mix an acid and a base pro duct, but if you do the old high school chemistry lab one with baking sod a and vinegar, your get a bunch of bubbling and a visible whitish cloud - - basically harmless, but for the media, at least a simple way t o demonstrate that mixing incompatible chemicals results in reactions.  ; Maybe that's what the Chief was trying to get at?
For anyone who's interested, we do teach a lot of this in t he Advanced HAZMAT Life Support Course which is administered out of the&nbs p;Emergency Medicine Research Center at the University of Arizona in Tucs on:
The issue of "poisonous" vs "toxic is just semantics.  It's pretty h ard for a substance to be toxic and not also be poisonous.  But we h ave the ongoing issue of a "toxin" (a protein or peptide-based  ;poisonous substance elaborated by a living organism [toxin; re:   rattlesnake venom, black widow spider venom, etc.] versus a&nb sp;"toxicant" [any substance that can be harmful to humans or the environ ment].  Nonsense in the end, because we all know what we me an.  Whoever briefed the Chief just didn't think this out.&nb sp; Give the poor guy a break.  He's probably not a chemist or a t oxicologist or a HAZMAT team member.  They seem to have done what was right, and that's all that counts in the end.  This seems like an attempt to educate the public to give up on drain cleaners (in a l ong life as "Harry Homeowner" I've never had one work yet to clean the drai n -- but they make a heck of a chemical neutralization demonstration) and c all a plumber and get the drain cleaned that way or go get a "snake" and do it yourself.  Tom Paine wasn't wrong:  there's a place for " Common Sense."  Just because it's shown on TV, made the subject of an internet site, or printed out on an HP color printer doesn't make it TRUE.
Alan H. Hall, M.D.
Medical Toxicologist
Verified Advanced HAZMAT Life Support Provider and Instructor
Former Volunteer Firefighter
Laramie, WY
Colorado School of Public Health
Denver, CO

Date: Mon, 7 Jun 2010 11:19:03 -0400
From: Anne.R.Skinner**At_Symbol_Here**WILLIAMS.EDU
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Chemical Safety headlines from Google
To: DCH AS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU

There's another problem with this.  Neither acetic acid nor sod ium bicarbonate are ammonia-based.  Ammonia is in cleaners, especi ally window cleaners, and certainly can make your eyes sting, but it is not involved in the reaction as described by Chief Belau.

Anne Skinner

From: "Samuella B. Sigmann" <sigmannsb**At_Symbol_Here**>
Date: June 7, 2010 9:12:24 AM EDT
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Chemical Safety headlines from Google


..."I poured liquid plumber down the drain, two hours later I poured Runo down the drain and two hours later I poured another bottle of liquid plumber," says Hunter.

And that created a chemical so toxic, that even he didn't want us to go inside more than 12 hours later.

"It bubbled up started smoking and burni ng my eyes and I couldn't breathe so I got out of the house," says Hunter .

...We had Chief Belau demonstrate what c an happen when acetic acid and sodium bicarbonate, both commonly used in household cleaners, are mixed together.

"You'll be able to see a chemical reacti on as the two combine," he says.

Although this combination isn't toxic, it is poisonous.

"Anytime you mix an ammonia-based produc t with a bleach or an acid you get a bad chemical reaction...scratchy throa t irritated eyes if you're exposed for too long you can develop something c alled Pulmonary Edema which is where the little air sacks in the lungs lead fluid and it causes trouble breathing," he says.

>Although this combination isn't to xic, it is poisonous.

From* *for the defin ition of _toxic_: * "containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation"


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Dr. Anne Skinner
Chemistry Department , Williams College
47 Lab Campus Drive
Williamstown, MA 01267

Phone:  (413) 597-2285
Fax No: (413) 597-4116

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