When you hear "hazardous materials" what comes to mind? Toxic materials housed in some giant factory? A tanker truck overturned on a busy highway? Level 'A' protection and special response teams? If so, you're not alone. The scenes mentioned are what most people think of in terms of hazmat or toxic chemicals.
Its time to change the way we think.
I'd like to introduce you to the concept of Consumer Level Hazardous Materials (CLHM )situations. These are situations where there is a creative use or misuse of chemicals that can be found in any grocery store, do-it-yourself center, or your local drug store. CLHM's can be accidental or intentional. Accidental events, as the title implies, is the unintentional use or misuse of chemical products. Examples of unintentional CLHM events can range from simply mixing two different cleaning products; bleach and an acid of some type, to produce chlorine gas. CLHM's can also be used to carry out an intentional act such as Homemade Chemical Bombs or Chemical Assisted Suicide.
To illustrate the CLHM situations, lets look at this case study -
A homeowner is attempting to clear a clogged drain in his kitchen sink. Over the course of three days, he uses several consumer level products from his local grocery store. None of the products work. Indesparation the homeowner now visits the local builders labyrinth (big box do-it-yourself store) for something stronger...still, no results.
Finally, he pours the remainder of all the drain cleaning products into the drain at the same time. In this case, he used Liquid Plumr, Rooto Professional Drain Opener, Comet, liquid bleach, and some sulphuric acid for good measure. The mixture reacts resulting in a severe inhalation hazard and the homeowner dies. His wife and son are overcome. Responder were called for trouble breathing and entered the structure as anyone might. They are also exposed to the fumes.
This situation actually took place.
Lets take a look at the CLHM involved and get a picture of how bad this is:
- Liquid Plumr = Sodium Hypoclorite and Lye
- Bleach and Acid (from comet) = chlorine gas
- Bleach and Ammonia = Chloramines
- Lye, an oxydizer = caustic burns, defatting/soapification injury
- Take a deep breath