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‘Chemical Suicides’ Also a Hazmat Danger For Responders

(File photo.  Credit: Paul Gluck)

(File photo. Credit: Paul Gluck)

Mark Abrams Mark Abrams
Mark Abrams is a versatile part of the KYW Newsradio family, serving...
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By Mark Abrams

WILLOW GROVE, Pa. (CBS) — There’s a new threat to emergency responders going in to handle what are being labeled “chemical suicides.”

Delaware County authorities recently dealt with one such case in which the suicide victim even set up warning signs around a tent where he inhaled the hydrogen sulfide gas he had released inside of it.

The gas, which can be created by mixing certain household products, essentially shuts down lung functions.

Laura Labay, a toxicologist for the National Medical Services Laboratory in Willow Grove, Pa., says suicide-by-chemical is a new danger to police, fire, and ambulance personnel who could walk into a scene and put themselves at risk.

“If I personally arrived at a scene where all indicators pointed toward hydrogen sulfide, I would back out and be appropriately dressed out in protective gear before proceeding into it,” she tells KYW Newsradio.

Tom Glass, hazardous materials coordinator with Chester County Emergency Services, recently taught a seminar on the subject of chemical suicides.  He says an unconcious person in a vehicle could be a tip-off, and he urges first responders to be cautious.

“Take ten seconds, walk around the vehicle, look for some of the indicators inside of the vehicle that could alert you to the potential of a chemical suicide occurring.”

Glass says an abundance of caution could actually save the life of a first-responder.