A Science Experiment Gone Bad!
February 29, 2012
They wanted to see our house and stay over for a visit. We were happy they were coming to visit because we hadn't seen them in a long time. As we prepared for our company, we started to get the house ready. After I mowed the lawn and attended to other areas, my wife and I were sure our relatives would be impressed with the house and our handiwork. We agreed to call it a night and decided to finish the last bit of work left indoors early the next morning.
With sunrise, we began cleaning the common areas. We were feeling proud of ourselves until we got to the guest areas. The guest bedroom and bathroom had not been touched in more than three months! The areas were filthy. This was definitely not the impression we wanted to leave on anyone, especially our relatives.
In haste, we decided to attack the two rooms with every cleaning agent we had -- toilet bowl cleaner, bleach, Comet, ammonia and more bleach. This area was going to be "Spic and Span" clean! Everything was going well when we got the call -- our guests were less than an hour out and we'd just started cleaning their bathroom. At this point, I decided to throw a combination of cleaning solutions into the bathtub and then run some hot water in it. I stayed in the bathroom while my wife finished vacuuming the hallway. After about five minutes, I began experiencing a headache, and the back of my throat started to burn. On top of that, my eyes were now watering like a leaky faucet. When my wife opened the bathroom door and saw me, she suggested I get some fresh air.
By the time our guests arrived, I was still suffering from something (I wasn't sure what the heck was going on at this point), and they asked if I had a cold. I told them "no" and didn't think anything more of my condition until one of our guests came back from the bathroom hacking and coughing. Immediately I suggested we move outdoors to get some fresh air.
As we moved outside, they asked if we had used any chemicals with chlorine and ammonia in the bathroom recently. I looked at them as though they had asked me to explain quantum mechanics. They went on to explain that when you mix ammonia and chlorine (ingredients found in common household cleaning supplies), you get a gas previously used as a weapon in World War I! Both my wife and I were astonished and mortified we had created something so sinister. They also went on to say that every year individuals die from this toxic concoction. Once we'd uncovered the problem, we aired out the house and rinsed the tub and sink again. We then ended up having a great visit with our relatives.
To prevent a similar incident from happening in the future, we now take extra time and look at the ingredients of the cleaning agents we use. I strongly recommend you do the same. Trust me -- you don't want to unknowingly create a chemical weapon in your own bathroom.
w/ info box below
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, http://www.aapcc.org, cleaning products are near the top of the list of the most common poisons for children and adults. Corrosive cleaners such as drain openers, oven cleaners, toilet bowl cleaner and rust removers are some of the more dangerous types of poisons found in homes.
When handling household and chemical products, the AAPCC offers the following tips to keep you and your loved ones safe:
• Keep potential poisons in their original containers.
• Do not use food containers such as cups or bottles to store household and chemical products.
• Store food and household and chemical products in separate areas. Mistaking one for the other could cause a serious poisoning.
• Read and follow the directions and caution labels on household and chemical products before using them.
• Never mix household or chemical products together. Mixing chemicals could cause a poisonous gas.
• Turn on fans and open windows when using household and chemical products.
• When spraying household and chemical products, make sure the spray nozzle is directed away from your face and other people.
• Wear protective clothing, including long sleeve shirts, long pants, socks, shoes and gloves, when spraying pesticides and other chemicals. Pesticides can be absorbed through the skin and can be extremely poisonous.
• Stay away from areas that have recently been sprayed.
• Don't sniff chemical containers, especially if you don't know what is inside.
• Discard old or outdated household and chemical products. First aid instructions on product containers may be incorrect or outdated.
• Keep the poison center phone number (1-800-222-1222) on or near home phones and programmed into cellphones.
• If an exposure occurs, call your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222 (this number can be called from anywhere in the United States)