Hazmat Risk for First Responders


The use of industrial and household chemicals as a method to commit suicide.

Note:  This is the new way to commit suicide.  Unfortunately, we as first responders could be potential victims if we do not remain acutely aware of our surroundings.
First responder awareness and education regarding this method is key in saving your own life.  If you enter an area and it smells like rotten eggs take this as a clue to exit the area.  The bad thing is that if you continue in the contaminated environment, the gas may actually diminish your sense of smell so you won’t be warned by the continued presence of the gas.

A listing of training presentations for your safety, during a response to a chemical suicide incident.

The latest in a new developing trend of suicide

Line   Line

Police sickened by chemical fumes at hotel where body found

Date 05/12/2018

Three DeKalb County police officers were taken to a hospital Saturday after they were overcome by chemical fumes while investigating a dead body at an extended-stay motel.

The officers were conscious and alert at the hospital and are expected to recover, said Shiera Campbell, a spokeswoman for the DeKalb police. Authorities are not treating the death as a homicide, she said.

Sometime before 4:15 p.m., Campbell said, authorities received a “person-down” call from the United Inn and Suites on Memorial Drive, just east of I-285.

Firefighters arrived first and discovered a man’s body in a third-floor room overlooking the motel’s parking lot. When the three police officers arrived, they soon felt sick and called for medical assistance.

Other officers soon evacuated nearby rooms as a precaution. More than two hours later, other residents milled around on the motel’s balconies, cordoned off by yellow crime-scene tape. Children ran and played amid the police cars and firetrucks.

No other residents suffered any effects, Campbell said.

Authorities declined to identify the victim. He was a resident of the motel, but police have not determined how long he had lived there.

The DeKalb County medical examiner’s office was on the scene late Saturday afternoon and will perform an autopsy.

Police think the man died from whatever chemical was present in his room, Campbell said.

Capt. Eric Jackson of the DeKalb fire department said officials had taken “samples” of a substance in the room, but he declined to elaborate.

“Something in there made the officers sick,” Jackson said. “We have no idea what, none whatsoever.”

The firefighters who found the body left the room immediately and did not become ill, he said.

Police do not believe the man’s death was a homicide, Campbell said, but she said it was not clear yet whether his exposure to the unknown chemical was by accident or was a suicide.

By Alan Judd - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Line   Line

"Suspicious death," HAZMAT investigation in E. Rochester, NY


Multiple law enforcement and first responders are on scene of a HAZMAT situation on Fairport Road in East Rocheste.

East Rochester, N.Y. - Authorities in East Rochester are investigating a suspicious death after a dead body was found inside a vehicle Sunday afternoon.

A swarm of law enforcement agencies and other first responders were on scene for several hours near Fairport Road in East Rochester.

The call originally came in around 7:00 Sunday evening for an unresponsive man in a car. Chemicals were then discovered inside the vehicle.

The Family First Federal Credit Union parking lot was blocked off for the investigation. The adjacent road, Waterworks Drive, which leads to an apartment complex, was also blocked off, preventing some residents of the complex from returning home.

The Monroe County Medical Examiner was at the scene, along with East Rochester police, Monroe County Sheriff's deputies and the County Fire Bureau, among others.

Line   Line

Information from an Article in Fire Engineering

Date 11/23/2015

Chemical Suicide Incidents in Florida

February 6, 2010—Sarasota County: Sarasota County Sheriff’s deputies found one person dead in a parked car at an apartment complex. The victim had placed a note on the window to warn anyone of the presence of deadly chemicals. Because this was a hazmat call, the residents of the apartment complex were evacuated.

February 13, 2013—St. Petersburg: A 23-year-old used household chemicals to create H2S. A police officer was affected by the gas and had to be treated in the hospital.

March 1, 2013—Orange County: A male was passed out in a vehicle in a wooded area near the Orange and Osceola County lines. The vehicle had a warning sign taped to the window, so first responders were aware that deadly chemicals had been used. No rescuers were injured during this call.

August 7, 2013—Okaloosa County: A 24-year-old was found in a vehicle that was parked at a church. The vehicle had warning signs taped to the windows.

October 1, 2010—St. Lucie County: A victim was found slumped over at a rest area off I-95 by a state trooper. There were signs posted on the vehicle warning of poisonous gas and not to open the vehicle. The smell of rotten eggs and concentration of toxic gas was so great that a state trooper had to be hospitalized.

April 2, 2015—Orange County: Police investigated a possible chemical suicide.

Chemical Suicide Incidents Nationwide

At the time of this article was written, the Florida counties (photo 5) and states marked in yellow (photo 6) indicate where chemical suicides have been reported. Keep in mind that there have already been more chemical suicides reported in other Florida counties and states, but the details on those incidents were not fully known when this article was originally written.

March 26, 2013—Sterling Heights, MI: One victim and no injuries to first responders.

January 13, 2014—Clark County, OH: One victim and no injuries to first responders.

September 3, 2014—Anne Arundel, MD: One victim and 20 displaced residents in apartment complex.

October 27, 2014—Hillsborough, CA: One police officer injured.

June 3, 2015—Town of Newburgh, NY: Five police officers injured.

June 11, 2015—Lowell, MA: At least six first responders hospitalized.



Robert Bohrer is 15-year fire service veteran in South Florida and currently serves at his department as a driver engineer. He has an associate’s degree in Emergency Medical Services from Palm Beach State College and is also an instructor at the college. He is a State of Florida certified fire instructor II, live fire training instructor, and a hazmat technician. He also is the owner of a hazmat training company that travels all over the state and country offering hazmat and advanced fire training.

Line   Line

Seven Responders Hurt in Mass. Chemical Suicide - MA

June 11, 2015

(Photo credit:

LOWELL, Mass. (AP) — A man who was apparently distraught over a failing relationship released chemical gases in his apartment Thursday, killing himself and sending 11 other people to the hospital, authorities said.

Police in Lowell say officers and paramedics responded in the late morning to a third-floor apartment after the 31-year-old man made postings on Facebook that concerned his friends.

Authorities aren't yet sure what chemicals were used, but early indications are a mix of hydrogen and sulfur, police Capt. Timothy Crowley said.

"We believe that the reason he had been making postings about harming himself was the dissolving of a relationship that he had," Crowley said.

Four police officers and three emergency medical workers were exposed to hazardous materials and taken to a hospital in unknown conditions, authorities said. The four officers were being treated for possible respiratory problems.

Four residents of the house also were taken to the hospital, but police say it doesn't appear they were exposed to the gases.

Crowley said Thursday afternoon that there does not appear to be any threat to the public.

Line   Line

5 Officers Hospitalized, One Woman Dead After Apparent 'Chemical Suicide' - NY

June 01, 2015

NEWBURGH, N.Y. -- Five officers were hospitalized Sunday after a 26-year-old woman committed what officials are referring to as apparent "chemical suicide."

"At least two chemical substances were mixed together inside of the car, creating a noxious cloud, and possibly resulting in the death of this woman," said Town of Newburgh Police Chief Michael Clancy.

"This type of incident is something I've never seen before myself," said Clancy.

Town of Newburgh police responded to the scene after receiving a call that the victim had been posting alarming messages on social media. Upon arriving, responders found the woman unconscious in the drivers seat of her car.

Police say the incident happened on Sunday evening at a home on North Dix Avenue. Responders got to the scene, and attempted to pull the woman from the car. Two officers ended up collapsing after inhaling the noxious fumes.

Three more officers got sick at the scene and were all treated and then released from Saint Luke's Hospital.

Officials say that beside the woman's body was a paper, and on it, a handwritten recipe for the ultimately deadly concoction.

Officials say tragedies like this are preventable, and that there are resources available to help those in distress. County Executive Steve Neuhaus spoke about the county's 24-hour mobile mental health team.

"We have a group of trained people on our staff that would go and meet with these people and actually walk them through this process, take care of them, give them counseling," said Neuhaus.

Clancy says that it was only after first responders were finally able to clear the scene that they noticed the woman had posted a note to the passenger window, warning them about the noxious fumes.

The cause of death is still being investigated. The identity of the victim has not yet been released.
By Briggette Sayegh /

Line   Line

Chemical Suicide Displaces 20 in Md. Apartment - MD

September 03,2014

One man is dead and 20 others displaced in what Anne Arundel fire officials are characterizing as a "chemical suicide" Tuesday afternoon at a Glen Burnie apartment building.

Firefighters were called to the Burwood Garden Apartments in the 6600 block of Shelly Road around 4 p.m. for a reported odor of natural gas. When firefighters arrived, they quickly detected sulfur in the apartment building, fire department spokesman Lt. Russ Davies said.

Firefighters investigated and located a first-floor apartment that the smell appeared to be coming from. Upon entering the apartment, firefighters discovered a sign on a bathroom door warning no one to enter without a hazmat suit, Davies said.

Inside the bathroom, firefighters found the body of a man estimated to be in mid-30s. As of Wednesday morning, fire officials were not releasing the man's identity.

Firefighters evacuated the building and notified the departments hazardous materials team. The first-floor apartment was found to contain lethal levels of hydrogen cyanide and hydrogen sulfide, Davies said.

Trace amounts of the chemicals, harmful with extended exposure, were found in the common areas of the apartment building, Davies said.

Two residents were taken to a local hospital -- one complaining about respiratory issues, the other for issues related to high blood pressure, Davies said.

Firefighters found nothing more than household chemicals inside the apartment. The hazmat team ventilated the building.

As of late Tuesday night, the levels of the chemicals in the air remained unsafe for habitation. The apartment complex's management made arrangements for the 20 people who had been displaced.

The department's hazmat team was planning to return to the site Wednesday morning. Fire officials expect the building would be rehabitable sometime during the day, Davies said.

The body of the deceased was taken to the Maryland Chief Medical Examiner's Office in Baltimore. Preliminary, the man's death does not appear to be accident and no foul play appears to be involved, Davies said.

Chemical suicide, the mixing of chemicals to cause asphyxiation, is a relatively new phenomenon among fire departments. County fire officials first became aware of the issue a few years ago, Davies said.

If ultimately ruled a suicide by the medical examiner's office, it appears it will be the first such recorded incident in the county, Davies said.
Ben Weathers / Source: The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

Line   Line

Five FDNY Members Hospitalized After Possible Chemical Suicide - NY

August 19, 2014


Five Fire Department emergency responders were taken to an hospital Tuesday night after they were exposed to a noxious substance while attempting to save a man in cardiac arrest in Queens, authorities said.

The emergency workers had responded to a 911 call that brought them to a home on 65th Crescent near 67th Ave. in Fresh Meadows around 9:40 p.m. when they were apparently overcome by fumes from a hazardous liquid inside a bottle at the residence, a fire department official said.

The responders, a mix of firefighters and emergency medical service workers, were taken to New York Hospital Queens, the FDNY official said. They were not believed to be in serious condition.

The man in cardiac arrest died at the scene, police said, after he committed suicide using chemicals to asphyxiate himself.

Police did not identify what the chemicals were but they appear to be what overwhelmed the responders,

Officers also recovered from the home a box that investigators believe was used to ship the noxious substance.


Line   Line

Suicide by Cyanide Triggers Conn. Hazmat Response - CT

April 18, 2014

The man left a note to warn responders and posted arrow-shaped signs pointing to the poison and where he lay.

Insisting that he was neither "depressed or distressed," the 69-year-old Fairfield man, whose apparent death by ingesting cyanide triggered a hazmat emergency in his Clinton Street neighborhood Monday night, wrote in a suicide note that he had an "outstanding" life, but did not want his days to end alone in a nursing home or hospital.

Allan Banks, who police said at one time had been a musician, also states in the four-page, handwritten letter that he was in declining health.

"This is a suicide, pure and simple," he wrote, noting that he had buried his father in 2005, his wife in 2007 and his mother in 2008, and with no other immediate family, did not want to suffer a lingering death.

"I am one fall or failed capillary away from the American way of death: ambulance, hospital, nursing home, progressive decline, drooling, vegging, dying," he wrote.

Banks apparently laid down in the bedroom at 32 Clinton St. last Friday and drank poisonous potassium cyanide from a vial, officials said.

"A note was placed to warn first responders so they wouldn't become victims," Gomola said.

Banks also posted arrow-shaped signs pointing the emergency-services personnel to the poison and where he lay. A small note, attached by Banks to his suicide letter, gave Friday, April 11, "shortly after 9:45 p.m." as the time of death.

The initial call about the incident was made to police just before 6 p.m. Monday from the house off South Benson Road. A friend of Banks had contacted police after reading an email she received from him. Assistant Police Chief Chris Lyddy said the language in the email was "concerning" to the friend, and she requested that officers check on Banks.

Gomola and Lyddy said first responders, unsure of the extent of the poison in the house, called for support from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's hazardous-materials team. Two police officers and two firefighters who initially entered the home to check on the man were taken to Bridgeport Hospital as a precaution, but were able to return to the scene.

"We isolated the area and made a controlled entry, and determined the victim was deceased," Gomola said.

The end of the street was quickly roped off with yellow warning tape, but neighbors were not evacuated. Spotlights were trained on the house as firefighters and hazardous-materials teams from nearby fire departments arrived on the scene.

Gomola said responders determined there was no danger to neighbors, and that the poison was found only in the bedroom of the home. In fact, he said, the cyanide was in two small vials one dark, the other clear found on the bed with the body.
Connecticut Post, Bridgeport

Line   Line

Dead woman found inside car left note: 'Call 911 Hazmat' - MI

March 26, 2013

STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. — A 23-year-old Sterling Heights woman was found dead today in a Sterling Heights park in an apparent suicide and authorities found toxic substances inside her car, Sterling Heights police said.

The woman, who was not named, was found about 4:45 a.m. by an officer conducting a check of Delia Park, 3001 Eighteen Mile. The officer saw a 2006 Ford Focus parked in the west end of the parking lot. When the officer approached, there were signs in several visible locations on the car that read "Contact 911 Hazmat," police said.

The officer smelled a strong odor of an unknown substance coming from within the car and saw the unresponsive woman in the driver’s seat. A bucket containing an unknown liquid and containers of muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid) were found inside the car, police said.
Detroit Free Press

Line   Line

Cobb man's death called suicide - GA

September 05, 2012

Cobb County police, firefighters and a hazardous materials team were at an apartment complex near Marietta on Thursday afternoon after a man's body and potentially hazardous chemicals were found in one of the units.

A call came in shortly after 1 p.m. about a body discovered at the Jefferson Lakeside Apartments, Lt. Dan Dupree, spokesman for the Cobb County Fire Department, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The complex is in the 2000 block of Roswell Road.

"Maintenance from the apartment complex found a deceased person inside an apartment in Building 13," Dupree said. "We responded along with the Cobb Police Department. When we entered the apartment, we discovered a potential hazardous materials situation."

Next to the deceased was a strange chemical cocktail. Dupree described the scene as a "suicide by hazmat," in which the victim apparently mixed various chemicals together to create a toxic gas that killed him.

Maintenance workers who entered the apartment were quarantined while the hazmat team tried to identify the chemicals, Dupree said.

In the meantime, the workers and initial responders who also were exposed to the chemical were being taken to a local hospital as a precaution.

"They are not hurt per se, but as a precaution in these situations, it's better to be safe than sorry," Dupree said. "They could feel the skin on their face had a slight sting, a burning sensation. That's it."

Firefighters also were going door to door to check on neighbors, and at least one who lives in an adjacent unit was asked to evacuate, Channel 2 Action News reported.

Cobb police Officer Mike Bowman told the AJC in an email, "It is a suicide with an unknown chemical. We are waiting on Fire Hazmat to clear scene so we can clear the body."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Line   Line

Pa. 'Chemical Suicide' Prompts Precautions

July 2, 2012

The cases are known as "detergent suicides," "chemical suicides," or "hydrogen sulfide suicides" - references to a lethal mix of common household cleaners and a toxic gas they produce.

While such deaths are relatively rare, Delaware County authorities were recently called upon to deal with the situation - which can put rescue workers and others at risk when they also are exposed to the poisonous fumes.

On July 2, Daniel Hoertling, 28, of Thornbury Township, was found in a tent in a wooded area owned by the township, south of Cheyney University near Station Road. Hoertling left a suicide note that was automatically posted on a website.

"If you are reading this, I am dead. I have taken my own life," it read.

He described years of depression and loneliness, and his struggle with anorexia. He also described the mix he used to create the carbon monoxide gas that would kill him.

"Put it in a tent, take a nap. Done."

Signs posted near his tent warned others away.

One trooper and a family member who did venture near the scene were sent to a hospital as a precaution but released soon after, said Rosemary McGuire, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania State Police.

According to a 2011 article in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, such deaths are well known in Japan, where more than 500 cases were reported between January and July 2008. In the United States in 2008 there were two cases, according to the journal, with 10 in 2009 and 18 in 2010.

Researchers found there were 45 unintentional deaths from such chemical mixing in the United States from 1999 to 2007.

In many cases, common household chemicals are used to create hydrogen sulfide.

"It is a very toxic type of gas," said Laura Labay, a forensic toxicologist with the National Medical Services Laboratory in Willow Grove. "Basically you don't get oxygen throughout the system."

Sense of smell is the first line of defense for those coming onto the scene, said Labay, who may encounter a rotten-egg odor. "If you get enough of it, it will just drop you."

At the Delaware County scene, hazardous material crews dressed in protective clothing and wore special breathing apparatus to decontaminate the area and the body before the victim could be sent to the medical examiner.

Even during the autopsy, precautions were taken, according to Medical Examiner Frederick Hellman. He wore a special suit with a face shield and respirator, and was monitored by a chemical detector during the procedure, he said.

Results of the toxicology screening will not be known for six to eight weeks, said Hellman.
By Mari A. Schaefer; Inquirer Staff Writer / Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer

Line   Line

Minnesota Chemical Suicide Prompts Need for Training

May 2, 2012

It was a first for Washington County authorities: chemical suicide.

In response, officials are thinking of putting together training materials for others who might deal with an emerging trend.

"It's a new phenomenon," Washington County sheriff's Cmdr. Brian Mueller said. "(Suicidal people) mix household chemicals in a bucket in a car, which creates a deadly gas."

The county received a report Sunday, April 29, of a "slumper" at Point Douglas Park in Denmark Township, Mueller said. When first responders arrived, they detected the faint smell of chemicals coming from the car and spotted the bucket inside, so they backed off until the St. Paul hazardous materials squad arrived.

Mueller likened the scene to a meth lab and said the St. Paul hazardous-materials team has responded to several similar incidents in the metro area.

"It was a first for us," he said of the Washington County sheriff's office.

Chemical suicide poses a risk to first responders, who may not know what they're walking into when they open the car door, Mueller said. If they're not aware of the suicide method, they may inadvertently inhale potentially deadly gases.

In some cases, Mueller said, the suicidal person puts a warning note on the car for whoever finds the body. But in Sunday's case, there was only a suicide note inside with the dead man, a 42-year-old from Prescott, Wis.

Mueller said his department is "compiling the lessons learned from this incident to share with our first-responder partners" to ensure their safety at such a scene.
By Elizabeth Mohr / Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

Line   Line

Washington County Authorities Experience First “Chemical Suicide” Call

May 2, 2012

It was a first for Washington County authorities: chemical suicide.

In response, officials are thinking of putting together training materials for others who might deal with an emerging trend.

"It's a new phenomenon," Washington County sheriff's Cmdr. Brian Mueller said. "(Suicidal people) mix household chemicals in a bucket in a car, which creates a deadly gas."

The county received a report Sunday, April 29, of a "slumper" at Point Douglas Park in Denmark Township, Mueller said. When first responders arrived, they detected the faint smell of chemicals coming from the car and spotted the bucket inside, so they backed off until the St. Paul hazardous materials squad arrived.

Mueller likened the scene to a meth lab and said the St. Paul hazardous-materials team has responded to several similar incidents in the metro area.

"It was a first for us," he said of the Washington County sheriff's office.

Chemical suicide poses a risk to first responders, who may not know what they're walking into when they open the car door, Mueller said. If they're not aware of the suicide method, they may inadvertently inhale potentially deadly gases.

In some cases, Mueller said, the suicidal person puts a warning note on the car for whoever finds the body. But in Sunday's case, there was only a suicide note inside with the dead man, a 42-year-old from Prescott, Wis.

Mueller said his department is "compiling the lessons learned from this incident to share with our first-responder partners" to ensure their safety at such a scene.
ELIZABETH MOHR, St. Paul Pioneer Press

Line   Line

Cyanide suicide leads to Level 3 Hazmat, responders quarantined - MA

April 11, 2012

BOSTON — Twelve people were evacuated from a South End apartment building and four Boston police officers and an ambulance crew were taken to a hospital after a woman committed suicide Monday night inside an apartment by ingesting a toxic chemical, fire officials said.

Boston Deputy Fire Chief Steve Dunbar said at the hazmat scene that the woman ingested the chemical on the first floor of 676 Mass. Ave. at about 9 p.m. and was later pronounced dead at Boston Medical Center.

He said four police officers and the ambulance team of two EMS workers were being quarantined at (Boston Medical Center) to determine whether they were affected by the substance.

Line   Line

Washington Hazmat Team Responds to 'Chemical Suicide'

October 03, 2011

A hazardous-materials team and bomb squad were called Sunday morning to the parking lot of an East Bremerton-area church, where a man's body was found in a pickup along with a sign on the driver's window warning people to steer clear of the vehicle because of a deadly gas.

Kitsap County sheriff's Deputy Scott Wilson said the case is a suicide, apparently similar to others across the nation in which common chemicals are used to create a colorless gas that is toxic to suicide victims but also potentially harmful to police officers, medics and others who get close.

In this case, Wilson said, the hazmat team from nearby Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor took measurements and determined that the level of gas was not high enough to cause an explosion.

Wilson said the victim was a 28-year-old man who lived in the area. His name has not been released publicly, though Wilson said his family has been notified of his death.

Reports of chemical suicides are on the rise across the United States, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One study documented 18 cases last year, up from two in 2008.

And such suicides have a wider impact: From 2006 to 2010, six states, including Washington, reported a total of 10 cases that killed nine people, injured four police officers, and required the decontamination of 32 people, according to the CDC. The agency said Japan has seen hundreds of such suicides.

After the level of gas was determined to be low, the man's body was removed from the truck, Wilson said.

The black pickup, parked outside Family of God Lutheran Church in Bremerton, seemed out of place to pastor Sigi Helgeson when she arrived at the church about 8 a.m.

A handmade sign tacked to the driver's window warned people not to come near the truck because of a dangerous gas. "Call 911" was written on the sign in several places. When she saw it, Helgeson parked at the opposite end of the lot and called 911.

Members of the church's band arrived to rehearse before the two services, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Helgeson canceled the services and she and three others gathered in the church's sanctuary to pray.

"We are so sorry for the family and for the person," she said.

A suicide note was found at the man's residence, Wilson said. "It's very tragic when somebody reaches a stage of despondency with all of the resources we have available," he said.
By Sanjay Bhatt and Sara Jean Green / The Seattle Times

Line   Line

Responders among 6 treated after chemical death - CO

August 03, 2011

Six people at the scene — a paramedic, two ambulance workers, a police officers and two people from the apartment complex — were sent to a hospital as a precautionary measure after possible exposure to cyanide.

The presence of the chemical also slowed the police investigation into how the person died because detective must wear hazardous material suits to enter the unit.

The chemical was found in a bottle that indicated it was sodium cyancide, and the team on scene treated it as such, according to Colorado Springs Fire Department spokeswoman Sunny Smaldino.

As of Tuesday morning, Smaldino said that the chemical had yet to be officially identified as cyanide.

No other apartments were evacuated.

Police are calling it a "suspicious death" but no other details have been released.

The body was found about 3:45 p.m. Monday in the Fillmore Ridge Apartments near Fillmore and Chestnut streets.

Line   Line

FFs Being Affected by Chemical Suicides Which Are Increasing in the U.S.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

“Of 72 chemical suicides experts have documented in the United States since 2008, at least 80 percent have resulted in injuries to police officers, firefighters, emergency workers or civilians exposed to the gas, despite the efforts of suicide victims to protect others by putting warning signs on car windows or closet doors, said Deputy Chief Jacob Oreshan of the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control, who has been tracking the cases.” This article is from the New York Times.

In Japan it is known as detergent suicide, a near-instant death achieved by mixing common household chemicals into a poisonous cloud of gas.

By some counts, more than 2,000 people there have taken their own lives, inhaling the gas — in most cases hydrogen sulfide — in cars, closets or other enclosed spaces. The police now say they are seeing an increasing number of similar suicides in the United States, inspired by Web sites that carry recipes for the chemical mix as well as detailed instructions on how to use it.

And as in Japan, where the suicides have caused whole neighborhoods to be evacuated and sent dozens of people to the hospital, the desperate and despondent are not the only victims.

Of 72 chemical suicides experts have documented in the United States since 2008, at least 80 percent have resulted in injuries to police officers, firefighters, emergency workers or civilians exposed to the gas, despite the efforts of suicide victims to protect others by putting warning signs on car windows or closet doors, said Deputy Chief Jacob Oreshan of the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control, who has been tracking the cases.

Last year there were 36 chemical suicides in the United States. Since Jan. 1, there have been at least 27, indicating that the incidence is rising, Chief Oreshan said. Those numbers, however, still represent a tiny fraction of the 34,000 or so suicides reported each year.

The injuries to first responders have so far been minor. But in some cases where police officers have opened car doors or broken car windows without protective equipment, the gas “is knocking them right to the ground,” Chief Oreshan said. To avoid exposure, rescuers cannot reach the victim until the hazard is cleared, a process that can take hours.

And that, said Michael Cerone, the police chief in Irvington, N.Y., is “heart wrenching.”

“You want to help,” he said. “You want to get in there.”

On March 28, Chief Cerone went to investigate a report of a person slumped inside a Jeep Liberty parked on a deserted dirt road. A sign on the window warned against breaking the glass and urged rescuers to call a hazardous materials team, he said. The bomb squad was summoned, and a robot was sent to breach the car’s rear window. Houses in the neighborhood were evacuated.

At that moment, a few miles away, Dr. Stephen Kelly, a family practice physician, was at the police station in Irvington waiting to file a missing person report on his 24-year-old son, John. As he stood there, a dispatcher on the police radio described the car and the body found inside and Dr. Kelly knew immediately what had happened.

He and his wife, Janet, a nurse, had spent hours that afternoon in an increasingly frantic search for their son, who had suffered since childhood from a severe form of obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression and had been hospitalized in December after a suicide attempt. Dr. Kelly had quit his practice to stay home and try to help John overcome his depression.

Despite John’s illness, he had graduated from college with a degree in psychology and was working at a nearby psychiatric hospital.

“He didn’t let people know,” his mother said. “He was always counseling others.”

Other suicides have followed a similar pattern. On May 23, a 23-year-old woman died in her car in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, after mixing up the recipe and placing signs on the window saying “Danger! Chemicals Inside! Call 911.”

She had made a suicide pact with a man who changed his mind at the last minute and left the car, the police said. In a suicide in Baldwin, Mich., on Jan. 8, emergency workers were taken to the hospital after a firefighter moved a canister in the car of a suicide victim, causing the gas to be re-released. And in Massachusetts, an elderly woman was sickened when the toxic fumes leaked through her ceiling from an upstairs apartment.

“Suicide is generally intended for one victim,” said Richard Perrin, under sheriff of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, who was at the scene of the suicide in Michigan. “Whereas this form of suicide has the potential to affect many, whether it be intended or unintended, and that’s what makes it so dangerous.”

Under Sheriff Perrin is one of about 50 police and fire officials who are part of a nationwide working group organized by Chief Oreshan to educate first responders about the suicides.

In Japan, Web sites advertised the chemical suicide method as a way to “die easily and beautifully,” according to one 2008 news report. After the number of people affected by detergent suicides reached alarming proportions — in the central city of Konan, a 14-year-old girl’s suicide sickened 90 of her neighbors in 2008; in Otaru, 350 people were evacuated after a 24-year-old man’s suicide — government officials tried to persuade Internet sites to remove the recipes.

But the proliferation of the sites has proved difficult to control, and instructions remain readily available, in some cases provided by visitors to suicide forums in answer to pleas from desperate people.

“In my last post I told my story,” one forum participant with the user name “Death” wrote under the headline “researching reliable ways to go.” “I am now here to ask if anyone can put a link to the Japanese detergent suicide recipe.”

Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless gas that smells strongly of rotten eggs and is produced naturally by the decomposition of organic matter. Deaths from it most commonly occur from accidental exposures in mineshafts or sewers. The gas dissipates quickly, but if inhaled at high concentrations it can cause convulsions, coma and a rapid death.

“You definitely don’t take any chances, because literally one breath will kill you,” said Dr. Kurt Kleinschmidt, chief of medical toxicology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, who has been following the suicides.

Dr. Kleinschmidt said the lethality of the method left no room for ambivalence or second thoughts.

John Kelly, the young man who died in Irvington, seemed determined not to be deterred. In the months before his suicide, he had told his parents that he felt increasingly trapped by his obsessions. His world was shrinking, he said.

In a journal entry written a few days before he died, he wrote about his struggles with his disorder: “Need to up the ante, apply the skills. Putting in the work. Gotta put in the effort. There’s no shortcut.”

He noted that he should “look into yoga” and reminded himself that if he felt suicidal he should “take a Klonipin, go to the gym, call a suicide hot line.”

The morning of March 28, Dr. Kelly said, he and his wife talked to John about plans for him to go to McLean Hospital in Boston for further treatment.

“Does that give you hope?” his father asked him. He said it did.
By Erica Goode-NY TIMES

Line   Line

Hollywood suicide points to chemical danger

June 06, 2011

This link will take you to the news report

Line   Line

Mass. hazmat team responds to suicide

May 30, 2011

Watertown police say a suicidal man left a note behind for the people who found him: 'Get Hazmat team.'

The 32-year-old Massachusetts man apparently killed himself with poisonous hydrogen sulfide gas inside his gray Honda in the back parking lot of 500 Arsenal St., Watertown Police Lt. Chris Munger said.

'There was a note on the window,' Munger said. 'The note read: 'Poison H2S gas. One breath kills. Get Hazmat team.'

A couple walking nearby discovered the car around 5:50 p.m. yesterday and reported it to police. Munger said it was unclear how long the body had been there.

Local police and firefighters and the state haz-mat team secured the area. No injuries were reported by first responders.


No evacuation was needed because of the remote location,' Munger said.

Line   Line

Detergent Suicide" Investigation Sends 8 to Hospital

January 14, 2011

Eight first responders near Baldwin in Lake County were taken to the hospital as a precaution, after responding to a so-called 'detergent suicide."

The incident happened when someone found a car with signs on it warning people not to open doors without protective HAZMAT gear. Inside, a 28 year old man was dead from an apparent suicide by chemical inhalation. Investigators say the man took a mixture of household chemicals and mixed them together to create hydrogen sulfide, a deadly gas

"The bucket was positioned in the front passenger side floor and was mixed by the decedent to create the gas," Undersheriff Rick Perrin told FOX 17 News.

When emergency crews worked to get the man out of the car, the ingredients mixed again, stirring up more gas. Eight first responders were exposed to the gas and taken to the hospital to be examined, and fortunately, they were not injured. "We got a warning about these suicides in October 2010," Undersheriff Perrin told FOX 17. "But we're a rural county and did not expect it to happen here."

FOX 17 News does not normally report suicides, but because this particular type of suicide puts others (police, family members) at risk, we felt we should inform the public of the dangers.

If you need help or need to talk to someone, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK. The hotline is available 24-hours a day for anyone in distress.
Lisa LaPlante / FOX 17 News Reporter

Line   Line


June 10, 2010

9 people, including eight emergency responders, were transported to the hospital this morning after they were exposed to potassium cyanide.  A man made a cryptic, vague 911 call just before 9 a.m. saying he had cyanide in a glass of water.  He did not give his identity, his location, nor his intention with the cyanide, said Aurora fire Capt. Allen Robnett.

However, using his cell phone number, officers were able to track down his name and learn that there was an active warrant for his arrest.  The warrant had his last known address -- the Skyview RV Park, Unit 57, at 16051 E. Colfax Avenue near Laredo Street.

Two police officers went to the trailer park and talked to the man, who apparently drank some cyanide and spilled the rest as police tried to confiscate it, according to doctors at University Hospital.

Robnett added Hazmat investigators don't know how much cyanide was exposed.

At first, firefighters transported the man and two police officers to the hospital.  But while decontaminating the RV, the hazardous materials team transported four additional officers and two medics as a precaution, Robnett said.

However, none of the first responders showed any symptoms, Robnett said.  University Hospital said it evaluated nine people -- and admitted two to the hospital.  The man was admitted to the intensive care unit in fair condition, and an officer was admitted for observation, said Erika Matich, a spokeswoman with the University of Colorado Hospital.

The other seven people were evaluated, treated and released, Matich said.  Parts of the trailer park were also shut down as Hazmat crews tried to control the exposure.

"The cops were in and out, telling us we couldn't go in.  They had that area blocked off, I mean it was pretty much containment," said witness Mike Hargrove.

Exposure to potassium cyanide can lead to death.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, potassium cyanide releases hydrogen cyanide gas, a highly toxic chemical asphyxiant that interferes with the body's ability to use oxygen.  Exposure to potassium cyanide can be rapidly fatal. It immediately affects organs most sensitive to low oxygen such as the brain, the heart and the lungs.  Dr. Andrew Ternay, an expert in counterterrorism and murder, said that a single teaspoon of potassium cyanide is lethal enough to kill an adult.

"The last minute or two you are in convulsions," he said. "It is not a pretty way to die.  You would shut down a third of the chemical reactions in your body and you die."  The most infamous use of cyanide as a lethal gas was in the German concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Ternay said it is not difficult to acquire cyanide and that the chemical has many practical uses such as mining and electroplating.

Potassium cyanide is not generally used for making meth, but it has been used in other parts of the country as a component in booby traps around meth labs, a law enforcement source said.

Robnett said at this time the man is not going to be charged with any crimes.  He could not get into details but cited a medical reason as to why charges would not be pursued at this time.

"We still have the option to go in a different direction at a later time," he said.

"For people who survive cyanide poisoning, there's no lasting harm or side effects," said Dr. Eric Lavonas, associate director for the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center.

Robnett said a private company that specializes in Hazmat cleanups has been contracted to do the cleanup.  He added it might decide to scrap the trailer if it is too saturated with cyanide or if the cost of the cleanup is greater than the value of the trailer.

Line   Line

First Responders Warned Of 'Detergent Suicide' Risks

Man found dead in the closet of a dorm room
April 14, 2010

This link will take you to the news report

Line   Line

Another Chemical Suicide.  This time in a house

March 28, 2010

A property manager discovered a body while checking on the renter who had not been seen in awhile.  A note was found nearby indicating a hazmat team was needed.  The North Little Rock Arkansas Fire Department Hazmat Team responded.   The team removed a bucket of chemicals that had been mixed together in an apparent suicide attempt.

Although most chemical suicides occur in cars, responders should be on guard for a possible chemical suicide on all EMS, runs including man down or welfare check type calls.

In many instances, but not all, the victim has left a warning note for responders.  Although responders should always look for the presence of a note, don’t bet your life on the kindness of stranger.  Stay alert, and when in doubt, don your bunker gear and SCBA.

Line   Line

Another Chemical Suicide in PA

March 18, 2010

A mixture of household chemicals produced hydrogen sulfide, which he released in a vehicle.  Responders were warned of poisonous gas by messages on the windows.

A 33-year-old man killed himself Wednesday afternoon by mixing a lethal concoction of household chemicals as he sat in a car in a garage in Richland.

Two Richland police officers were first on the scene in the 800 block of Cherry Road but did not open the car doors after seeing signs taped to the windows warning of poisonous gas inside the car.

Bucks County Coroner Dr. Joseph Campbell identified the victim as Justin Ivey.  Ivey was poisoned by hydrogen sulfide gas, which can be produced by mixing common chemicals.

"It's highly lethal," said Campbell.

According to the coroner, the victim posted signs identifying the gas and telling responders to call the hazmat units.

"It is lucky for those officers that those signs were there," said Richlandtown Assistant Fire Chief Calvin Trovinger.  "Seeing a car in a garage, you think you're dealing with carbon monoxide, but what happened today is totally different.''

Richland police Sgt. Rich Ficco said the officers were "exposed for about 10 to 15 seconds" before leaving the garage and calling the Bucks County Hazardous Incident Response Team (HIRT).

Trovinger said the Hazmat team contained the situation and then moved the car outside the garage to ventilate it.

Ficco said that the victim opened a container of the toxic mixture in the car, releasing the lethal fumes.

"We've discovered that the ingredients for the concoction can be found on the Internet," said the sergeant.  "These types of suicides started in California and are making their way east."

Advertisement According to one Internet site, mixing basic household chemicals can create a cloud of hydrogen sulfide gas that is highly toxic.

Deaths from the toxic mixture have been called "detergent suicides."

A threat assessment Web site reported that at least 500 Japanese men, women and children took their lives in the first half of 2008 by following instructions posted on the Internet for a lethal concoction using pesticides, toilet bowl cleaners or other chemicals found in the home.

In August 2008, a 23-year-old California man was found dead in his car behind a Pasadena shopping center.  (See report below)

The car's doors were locked, the windows rolled up and a sign warning of the toxic gas was placed in the window.  It was believed to be the first detergent suicide in the United States.

On Sunday, a sheriff's deputy in Granville County, N.C., was hospitalized after breathing fumes from a substance found in the vehicle of a 35-year-old woman who committed suicide in Oxford, N.C.

A Charlotte TV station said that authorities were calling it a detergent suicide.

The deputy was treated for a throat ailment and released from hospital, the TV station reported.

Upper Bucks firefighters recently discussed dealing with hazardous materials that release such toxic gases like hydrogen sulfide, according to Trovinger.

"It's something that's new and we're looking at it," he said.

Line   Line

Chemical Suicide Trend Continues, This time no warning sign was posted.
Oxford woman found dead in car

March 15, 2010

Photo by Stacy Davis / Capitol Broadcasting Company

The North Carolina Regional Response (hazmat) Team, staffed by the Raleigh Fire Department, was called in to assist with a chemical suicide.  A 35 year old elementary school teacher was found dead in her car, with chemicals in a bucket on the passenger seat.

Oxford Police found a 35-year-old woman dead in her car at 107 Hazelwood Court around 10 p.m. with a plastic container filled with toxic chemicals, said Oxford Police Chief John Wolford.  A sheriff’s deputy, who responded to the scene, was sent to the hospital after experiencing a slight burning sensation in his throat.  He was released.

Homes in the immediate area were evacuated while the woman's house and car were secured and cleaned by certified hazardous material firms, police said.  Police are investigating the death as suspicious pending results of an autopsy, but all indications are that it is a suicide, police said in a news release.

"In recent months there have been similar events in this region that seem to mirror this use of a chemical mix to accomplish attempts at taking one’s own life," Wolford said in the release.

In February, Cary police found a 30-year-old man dead inside his car in an apartment complex parking lot.  Signs taped to his car windows said “hydrogen sulfide, do not open door,” said Cary Police Captain Michael Williams.

Since that experience, Cary police have been trained to approach suicide scenes carefully.  Specifically, they’ve been taught to look for containers in the cars, Williams said.

Unlike many previous chemical suicides, no warning signs were posted on the car. By Leah Friedman - Staff writer

Media reports did not include the chemicals involved.  Below is a short video of the news broadcast.

Line   Line

Woman Found in Castaic Car Likely Victim of 'Detergent Suicide' - CA

Feb 26, 2010

Content Removed

Line   Line

First responders to suicide attempts face new dangers - FL

Feb 15, 2010

Content Removed

Line   Line

Suicide by chemicals on Siesta Key Beach

Feb 06,2010

This link will take you to the news report

Line   Line

Man kills himself near Siesta Key beach

Nov. 24, 2009

This link will take you to the news report

Line   Line

San Jose Teenager Dies After Exposure To Hydrogen Sulfide

February 14, 2009

This link will take you to the news report

Line   Line

Dangerous Japanese ‘Detergent Suicide’ Technique Creeps Into U.S.

August 2008

In August 2008, law enforcement and fire units responded to a suicide involving hydrogen sulfide in Pasadena, California.  The victim, found dead in his car, had mixed a fungicide and a toilet bowl cleaner in a plastic tray.  First responders saw the tray with a “bright blue liquid” in the back seat of the vehicle.  The man had placed a note on the car to warn first responders.  Investigation indicated that he may have visited one or more of the numerous Japanese websites that provide information on how to commit suicide using hydrogen sulfide.

The above incident was the catalyst for producing this page and the "Hazmat Risk for First Responders" a ppt file below in March 2008.

Line   Line

Chemical Suicide Response Training for First Responders
Chemical Suicide Response
Hazmat Fusion Center / IAFC
Chemical Suicide Case Study
Phil Ambrose | The Gray Area- Where rescue meets HazMat FDIC 2018 (Video Presentation)
Phil Ambrose | The Gray Area- Where rescue meets HazMat (Video Presentation)
CHEMICAL SUICIDES an Identification Guide for 911 Communications (A PDF file)
The Chemical Suicide Phenomenon:   Where is it Headed?   (A PDF file)
New York State Office of Fire Prevention & Control: Information Bulletin
Chemical Assisted Suicide: Responder Information (A PDF file)
National Hazardous Materials Fusion Center
2011 CHEMICAL SUICIDES Identification Guide for 911 Communications (A PDF file)
Central Florida Intelligence Exchange (CFIX)
CHEMICAL SUICIDE Safety Alert (A PDF file)
Portland Fire & Rescue’s Hazmat Response Team #6
Chemical Assisted Suicides Guidelines and Procedures (Video Presentation)
Presenter August Vernon, Forsyth County, NC, Office of Emergency Management
Source:  Firefighters Support Foundation
Advisory / New York State Office of Homeland Security
September 26, 2008 / Emergency Managers Advisory
Somehow this information never filtered down to most first responders.
Hydrogen Sulfide
Shelby County EMS Training Division  (A PDF Presentation)
Ada County, Idaho "Emergency Responder Safety Bulletin"   (A PDF file)
Awareness guide from the DHS  (A Word doc.)
Hazmat Risk for First Responders.  (A new way to commit suicide.)  (A PowerPoint Presentation)
08/2008  A 23 year old California man was found dead in his car

Fire Line

Kolbs Home    To NYS Fire Departments    To Teaching and Training Courses    To Fire Reports    Email
To Kolb