Chemical Combination Causes Commode Crisis

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Authorities say a Lincoln man is lucky to be alive after mixing two types of drain cleaner for a clogged toilet.

Lincoln Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Tim Linke said the call came in about 12:30 Sunday morning, in the 1200 block of S. 48th Street.

Crews responded to a man suffering breathing problems from fumes, after trying to deal with a clog in the commode.

LFR Captain Jay Adams said the man suffered some respiratory issues but declined to seek medical attention at the hospital.

According to Adams, the Hazardous Materials crew was called to help determine the nature of the fumes and how best to deal with them. In short order the fumes were identified as being highly hazardous.

And mixing chemicals when not reading the labels can be deadly. "The worst thing people can do," said Adams.

"It caused a chemical reaction where the homeowner breathed in fumes from that and possibly it could have been a fatal mistake" said Adams.

Fire crews wore air packs to enter the house and tried to use a plunger to free the blockage, without success.

According to Adams, since the toilet was still clogged, the liquids poured into the stool were not going through, creating the potential of continued chemical reaction.

Ron Eriksen with the Lancaster County Health Department, assisted with determining how to best get rid of the bowl full of goo that was releasing gas into the residence.

The Lincoln-Lancaster Health Department environmental health specialist Dan King says looking at the label is critical. "As a comsumer it's the only way to truly understand to use the product safely," said King.

Linke, Adams and Eriksen agreed, the best course of action is to pay attention to what chemicals you are considering mixing. If you do not know how they will react, don't mix them.

Eriksen said, "Read the label. That is the most important piece of advice I can give. There are reasons they warn on those labels not to mix certain things together."

Crews decided to call a plumber to use a snake to free the drain. While waiting for the plumber, LFR opened windows to help reduce the high levels of gases.

In just under three hours, the toilet was freely flowing the house aired out and the resident was allowed to return to his house.