LOWELL (CBS) – At UMass Lowell’s Toxics Use Reduction Institute, also known as TURI, the tragic hazmat mishap at Buffalo Wild Wings in Burlington hit home.
“It’s always dangerous to mix chemicals together,” said Liz Harriman, TURI’s deputy director. In Burlington, authorities said a bleach-based cleaning product called Super 8 was mixed with an acid-based solution called Scale Kleen. “If you mix bleach with acid, then you get chlorine gas evolving off that, which is very dangerous.”
Researchers are testing non-chemical options, like vinegar-based sprays and a steam vacuum cleaner. They say it would work in a restaurant like Buffalo Wild Wings, where authorities say employees were using strong chemicals on the floor instead. “That’s not a food contact surface, so you shouldn’t need to disinfect the floor,” said Harriman.
They say the same kinds of potentially dangerous chemical reactions can happen with household products too. Most have much less bleach in them, but when combined with other cleaners, can also give off toxic fumes. “You’re using something that’s OK, and then you’re using something else that’s OK, and you’re combing them together to create something that’s a lot more hazardous,” said Dr. Jason Marshall, lab director at TURI.
Researchers hope the development of new, safer cleaning tools will prevent tragedies. They also hope a word of caution will help. “It’s always dangerous to mix chemicals together,” said Harriman. “We encourage companies…and restaurants to use less hazardous materials.”