Last week I shared some of my favorite Talk Clean To Me blogs. One of them “Mommy, this water tastes funny” was based on a true story that happened to my friend. It was a situation where bleach had been put into a water bottle and not labelled. My friend’s son took a sip, he was lucky.
This week, as I was scrolling through the various news feeds I get I came across an article from the UK where an elderly woman had passed away after drinking cleaning fluid that was left in her room in the same type of container that the hospital used to provide water to patients. Again the container was not labelled with any information as to what it contained. What made this situation even more frustrating is the fact that management at this facility missed an opportunity to learn and disseminate lessons from a 2016 incident on the same floor of the hospital involving the drinking of cleaning fluid.
But not labelling cleaning and disinfecting products is not the only situation where chemicals can cause harm. This week (well actually today), I received two questions from people about mixing chemicals. One question was about adding an “odor neutralizer” to their disinfectant and a second asking what would happen if they mixed 2 different disinfectants together. All I can do is sigh…
Similar to the potential adverse effects of consuming chemicals, mixing chemicals can be deadly. As noted in my Top Disinfectant Offences for 2011 blog, Custodial Chemists are one of my favorite but perhaps most frustrating groups. This group of people believe that if they mix different products together they can make a better product, simplifying their job or with the addition of “odor neutralizers”, masking odors that have been left behind by improper cleaning procedures. They’re my favorite group because I have the opportunity to educate, but they are frustrating because the discussion often happens after an incident.
Mixing chemicals deeply concerns me because it can often be deadly. An example that sticks with me is one that happened about a year before I started working in the cleaning and disinfection industry. I remember it so vividly as it happened close to where I live. In 2002, Gloria Lucas, a caretaker who worked at a school in Toronto died on the last day of school. Ms. Lucas died of acute chlorine gas intoxication after a corrosive chlorine gas was released as a result of mixing a toilet-bowl cleaner and a bleach-based cleaning product.
I cannot stress the importance of labelling cleaning and disinfecting products and to never mix chemicals together unless you have very clear instructions to do so. Cleaners and disinfectants are chemicals. They can cause harm and in some cases can result in death. Any time a product is taken out of the original container and put into a secondary container it MUST be labelled so that it can be easily identified and under NO circumstances should chemicals be mixed unless their label instructions specifically state this is to be completed and how to do so.
Please stay safe. Please use cleaners and disinfectants as manufacturers meant them to be used.