Household Fumes Kill Man He Mixed Bleach, Ammonia And Drain Cleaner To Unclog Toilet

Posted: January 09, 1995

A 61-year-old man who tried to unclog his toilet by mixing household chemicals died yesterday afternoon when he was overcome by fumes.

Two city fire-rescue paramedics who went to his aid were also hospitalized, though they apparently were not seriously hurt.

The man, Edward Maj, of K Street near Lycoming in the Juniata section, collapsed in his second-floor bathroom about 3:35 p.m., officials said.

They said that in an effort to unclog a second-floor toilet, he mixed household bleach, household ammonia and a drain cleaner. The deadly combination relased toxic gases, including chlorine gas and possibly phosgene gas, fire officials said.

Maj's wife, Mary, 58, and daughter, Linda, 33, were downstairs at the time and weren't injured, officials said. When Maj collapsed, they called the Fire Department.

Maj regained consciousness, and told paramedics he was all right, officials said. However, he lost consciousness again, and the paramedics tried unsuccessfully to revive him. Maj was pronounced dead on arrival at Parkview Hospital.

Paramedics Donald Bryan, 29, and Ted Goldman, 28, of Medic 2, Kensington and Castor avenues, were admitted for observation and were in good condition, a hospital spokesman said.

Officials said that no neighbors had been injured and that there had been no evacuations, though when firefighters knocked on a next-door neighbor's house, and got no answer, they had to break through a second-floor window to get inside to check.

Neighbors said Maj, a quiet, friendly man, had suffered from emphysema. They said his medical problems had forced him to retire from his job as a metal grinder.

Police said a doctor at Parkview had told them the incident wouldn't have been fatal except for Maj's age and medical condition. Police said Maj also had suffered from heart problems.

Neighbors said Maj's death had brought home the dangers of household cleaners.

"You don't realize what chemicals can do when they're mixed together," said one man, who asked not be be named. "You're there cleaning your bathroom with something you buy over the counter, and you don't realize it's affecting you until it's too late."

Fire officials warned that people should be very careful when mixing chemicals.

"People should always read labels," said Chief John Devlin of Battalion 10. "Products can be dangerous when mixed with other cleaning solutions. Anything that says it has chlorine in it should be used with great caution when mixing it."

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