Buffalo Wild Wings worker dies after accidentally mixing two cleaning products — here's how to stay safe

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A Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant manager died and at least 10 people were hospitalized after being overcome with toxic fumes from a powerful cleaning agent. (Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images)
A Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant manager died and at least 10 people were hospitalized after being overcome with toxic fumes from a powerful cleaning agent. (Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

A restaurant manager has died and at least 10 other people were hospitalized after inhaling toxic fumes from a powerful cleaning agent.

On Thursday, at Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Burlington, Mass., a worker was cleaning the kitchen floor using a cleaning agent, called Super 8, which contains sodium hypochlorite — a disinfectant and bleaching agent that’s a more potent form of chlorine. What the worker didn’t realize is that an “acid-based cleaning agent” had already spilled on the floor, reports Time. When the Super 8 cleaning agent was poured on top and the worker started to scrub the floor, it created a toxic chemical reaction.

The worker fled the kitchen, complaining of burning eyes, while the general manager used a squeegee to try to remove the cleaning agent.

“That’s when he was exposed to it. It was probably an immediate reaction to the product,” assistant Burlington fire chief Michael Patterson told Time. Firefighters and paramedics then arrived on the scene, and the building was evacuated, with customers complaining of watery eyes and difficulty breathing. But it was too late for the manager. “We knew the guy was in trouble,” Patterson said.

The manager was taken to the hospital, where he later died.

In a statement to Time, a Buffalo Wild Wings spokesperson said: “We are shocked and saddened to learn of this tragic accident at our franchise-owned sports bar and are working closely with our franchisee and the authorities while they conduct an investigation.”

Super 8 is an Environmental Protection Agency-registered “sanitizer for low-temperature warewashing and food contact surface sanitizing,” according to Auto-Chlor System, which provides professional cleaning products and services to businesses such as food and bar service and commercial laundry operations. “Super 8 is used to sanitize dishware, flatware, glassware, utensils, pots, pans, and other food contact surfaces,” according to the company.

“This is a product that we have been told, that it’s a common product used for floor cleaning,” Patterson told CBS Boston. “For some reason tonight there was just a reaction that led to this.”

What consumers need to know

From reports, it appears that Super 8 alone didn’t cause the problem — rather, it was the toxic chemical reaction that happened once Super 8, which is a bleaching agent, mixed with the acid-based cleaning product that had already been on the restaurant’s kitchen floor.

According to McGill University in Canada, you never want to mix cleaning products that contain bleach (such as Clorox, which has sodium hypochlorite) with ones that contain acid (the same goes for bleach and ammonia, which is found in glass and window cleaners.)

“Bleach is a solution of sodium or calcium hypochlorite. When mixed with any acid, it releases highly toxic chlorine gas,” states McGill University. “Most toilet bowl cleaners contain sodium hydrogen sulfate, an acid which will quickly liberate chlorine from bleach. The acrid fumes of chlorine can destroy lung tissue, cause the lungs to fill with water and in a sense cause death by drowning.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a list of household products that contain sodium hypochlorite. “No acid must ever be mixed with chlorine bleach,” according to the university. “This includes acidic drain cleaners, rust removers and even vinegar.”

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