Amid Aroma poisoning: How dangerous is ingesting degreaser?

A 50-year-old man was rushed to the hospital after drinking cold turmeric tea into which someone accidentally put a degreasing solution.

Toxic chemicals (photo credit: SHUTTERSTOCK)
Toxic chemicals
(photo credit: SHUTTERSTOCK)

A 50-year-old man was rushed to the ER after he allegedly drank a degreaser cleaning agent that somehow was added to the drink he ordered at a branch of Aroma, an Israeli coffee shop. At Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, he reported that he felt sick from swallowing the liquid and that his mouth felt as though it was burning. A lab test revealed that the drink had contained degreaser.

This isn’t the first time such a thing has happened. In 2017, a similar incident occurred at the Giraffe Restaurant in Tel Aviv when two diners and the manager were hospitalized after drinking a lemonade diluted with degreaser. The three were rushed to Ichilov Hospital where the condition of one of the diners and the restaurant manager was moderate, and the condition of the third diner was mild. Artium Vostroilov, one of the hospitalized diners, told Walla "I can't eat solids at all, only liquids, and that too with difficulty, and mostly I drink water."

What damage can occur from ingesting degreaser?

Chemical agents that dissolve fats are very common, both at home and inindustrial kitchens. These are substances whose main active ingredient is based on caustic potassium which is a very active, basic substance (as opposed to acid), which when swallowed and even inhaled can cause an acute reaction and burns to any tissue that the substance touches like the lips, tongue, pharynx and digestive tract. Inhalation of the substance can cause significant damage to the airways and lungs.

About 80 percent of the world's poisoning cases with degreaser occur in children, and are usually of small amounts and therefore cause only minor damage. In adults, most cases involve accidental or intentional drinking (as a suicide attempt) in large quantities, and thus the degree of damage increases. The damage includes burns in the pharynx and upper gastrointestinal tract, to the point of injury that causes gastrointestinal perforation and life-threatening infections. The long-term dangers include gastrointestinal scarring that can cause swallowing disorders mainly due to narrowing of the esophagus.

The fragrance of Aroma (credit: AROMA)The fragrance of Aroma (credit: AROMA)

 What to do

If you have accidentally swallowed a degreaser, at home or in a restaurant, don't try to vomit the substance after swallowing for fear of creating double damage (swallowing and vomiting) and aggravating the symptoms. Drink plenty of water to dilute the substance and go to the ER. The same is true with eye exposure: rinse continuously with plenty of water and go to the ER.

The hospital usually does an invasive examination that involves inserting a flexible tube with a camera through the mouth in order to assess the extent and severity of the injury, and treatment is determined according to the extent of the damage and is mainly repair of the damage. It’s important to note that industrial materials are often more concentrated and hazardous than domestic ones.

 The solution - prevention

The most important thing to do to prevent poisoning from detergents is of course prevention. Don’t keep detergents in containers similar to containers of food.  Keep the detergent away from the kitchen and be sure to keep it in the cupboard out of the reach of children, and never transfer hazardous substances to soft drink bottles - it’s not worth the risk of accidentally drinking from it.