When you’re young, you look at television and think, there’s a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that’s not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. That’s a far more depressing thought.
I sat down tonight and watched the History Channel, which was showing a documentary called "WW1: The First Modern War". This is an excellent multi-part series, with tonight's topic being called "Clouds of Death" and it was about the first use of chemical agents as weapons.
The show reminded me of a man I met when I was a boy (early 1970s) and I worked in a nursing home as a night janitor. At the home, we had many WW1 veterans. I will never forget one WW1 veteran who had been permanently disabled during a chemical attack. I do not know what gas he was exposed to (he mentioned chlorine gas, mustard gas, and phosgene), but I do know he had a bad case of emphysema that made his life miserable.
I learned about this gentleman's history after we had a chemical poisoning incident at the nursing home. The incident involved a nurse who mixed cleaning chemicals together, which I would argue NEVER should be done. The nurse had decided that a shower needed to be cleaned really well and it seemed like a good idea to mix chlorine bleach and an ammonia-based cleaner. Unfortunately, this mixture created a gas that sickened the nurse. The chemical reaction is rather complex, so I will refer to Ann Marie Helmenstine's excellent discussion of the topic. Some folks have inadvertently hurt themselves by mixing bleach with toilet bowl cleaner, which can generate chlorine gas (reference). Chlorine gas is also generated when mixing vinegar and bleach, another common source of cleaning agony. For the details on the chemistry behind these safety hazards, see another of Ann Marie's posts.
The nurse recovered, but it was a talk of the nursing home for days. Occasionally, you will read an article about someone dying because of their mixing of cleaning chemicals, but this is rare.