Iowans who are doing their spring cleaning may accidentally create a poison gas cloud in their bathroom or kitchen. Registered nurse Joan McVoy says many poisonings are caused by cleaning products. She says mixing bleach with other products that contain ammonia can result in a dangerous chlorine vapor cloud.
“Breathing in those fumes, right away, you’ll smell the chlorine and you can get some coughing, shortness of breath,” McVoy says. “Actually, after a few days, you can even get fluid on the lungs so it can be very dangerous when you do that. Just remember, don’t mix bleach with any other chemicals. Other products around the house, like oven cleaner, can cause burns on the skin and the eyes and the mouth, so make sure you keep those up and out of reach of kids.”
Many Iowans are already hard at work creating lush, green lawns, but she cautions: use chemicals with care. “Make sure that you’re using the right chemicals for the problems that you’re having,” McVoy says. “The county extension office in our area is a wonderful place and where you can get expert advice on whether your lawn needs any chemical application at all. Be careful, follow directions. Some people want to go out and spray their fruit trees when we have 35 mile-per-hour winds. That’s not a good idea.”
If you’re ready to put away the snow blower for the season, be very careful if you plan to siphon gasoline out of the machine’s tank. Swallowing gasoline can cause severe stomach discomfort, but if it’s inhaled into the lungs, gasoline can be deadly. McVoy says other items in the garage are extremely dangerous.
“Wheel cleaners contain chemicals that can cause very severe burns,” she says. “Antifreeze, if you’re draining your radiator, that’s one of the most dangerous chemicals in the house. It is sweet-tasting so pets will drink a lot of it. Don’t leave those products unattended either.” She says it’s a good idea to learn and memorize the names of all the plants that are in your house and yard.
“When we get a call to the poison center and someone says, ‘My child got into a plant, it’s green and it’s got leaves,’ well, that’s really difficult for us to narrow down what it is,” McVoy says. “Always get those plants identified and if you’re ever not sure, call the poison center and a nurse will be glad to tell you if a plant is poisonous or not if you’ve got the name of it.”
Experts at the Iowa Statewide Poison Control Center, based in Sioux City, can answer most questions people have about poisonous substances, plants, and procedures for preparing and storing chemicals. That number is 1-800-222-1222, or visit the website: “www.iowapoison.org“.