Interesting calls - July 2013

Corrosive substances at home

NCEC recently received a call regarding an incident where a member of the public had put three different drain cleaner products down a sink and had subsequently been taken to hospital with burns to their hands, throat and respiratory tract. The Fire Service was looking for information on the hazards of the products when mixed.

Our Emergency Responder advised that all of the products were corrosive and could cause burns. The Responder also advised that the products contained sulphuric acid, sodium hydroxide and sodium hypochlorite that, when mixed, would produce chlorine gas. The Responder explained that the chlorine gas generated in a confined space was likely to have caused the irritation to the person’s throat and respiratory tract. It was recommended that the fire crew should wear gas-tight suits with breathing apparatus and chemical protective gloves.

Immediate access to expert advice on hazardous household chemicals means that dangers can be identified accurately, allowing incidents to be resolved quickly without compromising safety.

Product spill on carriageway

A fire officer called NCEC regarding an incident where two agricultural products mixed in solution had spilt onto a carriageway from an agricultural sprayer on the back of a tractor.

Our Emergency Responder advised that one of the products was toxic on prolonged exposure and could cause sensitisation on skin contact. The Responder explained that this hazard would be reduced because the two products had been diluted. However, it was pointed out that the mixture would be hazardous to the environment and should be prevented from entering watercourses. It was also suggested that the Environment Agency should be made aware of the spill.

Our Emergency Responders draw on their in-depth chemical knowledge and experience dealing with incidents to provide practical advice to protect the emergency services, members of the public and the environment.

Battery acid and bleach

NCEC recently received a call from a fire officer who was dealing with an incident at a domestic property where battery acid had reacted with bleach.

Our Emergency Responder advised that the reaction would emit chlorine, which is corrosive and toxic by inhalation. The Responder explained that chlorine could react with metals to produce hydrogen, which would be flammable and could cause an explosive atmosphere to form.

Immediate access to qualified chemists ensures that the most appropriate actions and suitable precautions are taken.