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Noxious fumes can be deadly: Don't mix ammonia and bleach

You were working with a colleague when they did something incredibly dangerous. They mixed up two cleaning supplies and ended up creating noxious, toxic fumes. You both ended up in the hospital, and it was a few days before you had any kind of significant recovery.

If you work with cleaning supplies, you need to know what you can and cannot mix. Two of the most dangerous chemicals to mix together are ammonia and bleach, both of which are used in many of the cleaning supplies found in the U.S. today.

Stop! Don't mix ammonia and bleach

When you mix ammonia and bleach, you create chlorine gas. This, in small amounts, causes irritation to the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. In large amounts, it's possible to die from exposure. Chlorine gas is better known by the term used in World War I and II, mustard gas.

How do ammonia and bleach end up getting mixed when it's obvious that they're so dangerous together?

One way for this to happen is to have a person disinfect an area with bleach prior to using ammonia to clean. For example, a cleaner might come in and disinfect the flooring and sinks with bleach. Then, they may switch to using a soapy mixture to clean. If that mixture contains ammonia, then chloride gas could be a result.

How can you prevent chrloride gas from forming if you have to use ammonia and bleach when you're cleaning?

One way that you can protect yourself if you have to use these chemicals side-by-side is to make sure you always rinse away the product before adding another. For instance, if you're cleaning the bathroom in a hotel, make sure you rinse the bath out if you've used bleach. Then, you can use the other chemical with a much lower risk of mixing the two together.

Of course, the best method to prevent an accident is to make sure your chemicals are safe to use together. You can opt to use bleach-safe products, for instance, so that there is no risk of a worker mixing up chemicals that don't belong together.

If you have been involved in an accident because of using bleach, ammonia or other chemicals together, you may have lasting symptoms and complications. It's important that your employer helps you file for workers' compensation, so you can focus on your recovery and not have to worry about your finances or medical care being covered.

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