Increase of ‘detergent suicides’ create more hazmat dangers

There is an emerging trend of incidents called “Detergent Suicides,” named from the practice of mixing certain household chemicals to produce a toxic and lethal gas (hydrogen sulfide). gives the following scenario in a recent article:

  • You receive a call to a person passed out in a car in the parking lot of a public park. Upon arrival you notice a male in his mid-twenties slumped over in the seat, apparently unresponsive. You notice what appears to be a haze in the car but don’t pay it much attention; you are focused on the patient.
  • You open the door to begin your assessment. You breathe in and immediately sense the presence of acid and begin to cough and wretch. You feel as though you are unable to breathe or catch your breath. Your eyes begin to burn.

According to the article, such scenarios have happened in the past couple of months in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Raleigh, N.C., along with Ada County, Idaho last year. However, in these three cases, the rescuers were forewarned of the hazards. Warning signs such as “Call Hazmat,” “Stay Away,” and “One Breath of Gas Can Kill” were posted on the vehicles.

Because these are hazardous environments, a simple HEPA or N95 respirator is not adequate protection. These situations should only be managed by persons with appropriate respiratory and physical protection.

Be aware that not everybody who commits suicide in this manner will warn of potential hazards beforehand. If you come across a similar situation, be suspicious and cautious before opening the door.