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Wrong mix of cleaners leads to hazmat scare in east Columbus

A mixture of two different toilet bowl cleaners caused a worker to get sick and led to a hazmat response at a vacant store in east Columbus (WSYX/WTTE)

A mixture of toilet bowl cleaners in a vacant east side store led to a hazmat response Wednesday morning, Columbus Fire officials.

A maintenance worker cleaning the empty business along East Main Street near I-270 flushed a toilet with low water, which caused him to become overcome by fumes, Battalion Chief Steve Martin said.

“One cleaner was in the tank, and the other was in the bowl and when he flushed the toilet those two mixed and put off some fumes and knocked him back a little bit,” Martin said. “Not knowing exactly what it was, and to be safe, we sent a hazmat response out to evaluate everything.”

Martin said mixing ammonia-based cleaners and bleach-based cleaners can have serious consequences.

“It can be deadly. You don’t want to be around and smell when those two gases are mixed. Fortunately, (this worker) was able to get out right away and able to get this fresh air. He was evaluated, but we did not end up transporting him,” Martin said.

The vacant store was in a strip mall, and some neighboring businesses were evacuated as precaution. No one else was exposed to the fumes, Martin said.

Martin warned to double check the ingredients in toilet bowl cleaners and other products, such as drain cleaners.

“If you mix “Brand A” and you run out, and then you put “Brand B” in there you can develop that chemical smell. It’s an acid. It’ll tear up your lungs.”

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