10 Ordinary but Hazardous Combinations

by Shweta Anand2 years ago
Picture 10 Ordinary but Hazardous Combinations

Chemistry is a fascinating field of study that has a profound effect on our daily lives. From our food, clothes, and medications to every household cleaning product that we use, chemistry implications are everywhere. As a result, it is possible that we may take all these for granted sometimes. So, while it can seem harmless to mix everyday products, it may do more harm than you think. Therefore, we have brought you a list of ten ordinary but hazardous combinations. 

1 Bleach and Ammonia 

Most cleaning products commonly classified as bleach often contain a chemical called sodium hypochlorite. When this is mixed with ammonia, a common ingredient in products like glass and window cleaners, it can create toxic gasses called chloramines. These can cause irritation to the respiratory system, eyes, shortness of breath, and worse. 

Bleach and Ammonia 
Bleach and Ammonia based glass cleaner. Image credits: Irina Annarumma/Shutterstock.com

We are no strangers to the advantages of using bleach and ammonia as cleaning agents. Most bleaches found at home contain hypochlorite, usually in the form of sodium hypochlorite.

This product is a wonderful oxidizing agent that dissolves almost all dirt and germs it encounters. Ammonia, on the other hand, is another common cleaning product used at home. Its derivatives may also be an ingredient in other products such as glass and window cleaners.

Given their individual potencies, it can be tempting to mix the two, but you certainly should not. When sodium hypochlorite in the bleach reacts with ammonia or its derivatives, it releases toxic chloramine gasses.

Inhaling chloramine gasses can cause irritation to the respiratory system, nausea, fluid in the lungs, and more. So, while it is true that mass exposure to such gasses is rare, mixing bleach and ammonia has the potential to expose you to them. (1, 2)


2 Grapefruit Juice and Cholesterol Medications 

Grapefruit is a wonderful source of vitamin C. However, ingesting this fruit or its juice along with certain medications, such as those used to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, can make the medicines ineffective. This is because grapefruit can block the effect of the CYP3A4 enzyme that is required to metabolize many medications. 

Grapefruit Juice and Cholesterol Medications 
Grapefruit Juice and Cholesterol Medications.

If you’re a fan of grapefruit or its juice, you may want to pay attention to this! 

Grapefruit and its juice is a popular delicacy in many parts of the world, especially the US. It is rich in vitamin C and potassium, two nutrients that are essential to the human body’s functioning. However, this fruit is reported to have some unwanted interactions with certain commonly consumed medications. 

Some drugs that can negatively interact with grapefruit are certain statin drugs that lower cholesterol, blood pressure medications, anti-anxiety drugs, corticosteroids, just to name a few. Due to this, the US Food and Drug Administration requires such drugs that are available over-the-counter to carry warning labels against grapefruit consumption. 

This interaction is caused by grapefruit and its juice blocking the action of the CYP3A4 enzyme required to metabolize many medications. Without this enzyme, the medicines can enter the bloodstream in high amounts and even be lethal. (1, 2)


3 Bleach and Vinegar 

Bleach and vinegar, on their own, are two effective cleaning products found in most households. However, when mixed together, they can give out chlorine fumes that are toxic to inhale. In small amounts, chlorine gas can cause mild irritation, while larger amounts of the gas can even cause lung tissue damage. 

Bleach and Vinegar 
Bleach and Vinegar.

In 2020, an Australian consumer advocacy group called CHOICE issued a warning against mixing different cleaning agents, such as bleach and vinegar. This was because mixing these two could give rise to chlorine gas which is known to be toxic. 

Since most types of household bleaches contain sodium hypochlorite, it is basic in nature and reacts when mixed with an acid like vinegar. This is because the vinegars found at home are made up of an organic compound called acetic acid that is considered to be weakly acidic. But despite being a weak acid, it is possible that vinegar could react with bleach and release toxic chlorine fumes. 

Experts say that if you do accidentally mix bleach and vinegar, you must air out the room as quickly as possible and contact a physician if you develop symptoms. Breathing in small amounts of chlorine gas can be irritating to the nasal passages, while higher concentrations can be absolutely toxic. (1, 2)


4 Fish Oil Supplements and Anti-blood-clotting Medicines 

According to some experts, fish oil supplements and stroke prevention medications may interact with each other to produce adverse effects. Omega-3 fatty acids, the common ingredient in fish oils, are known to have an anticoagulant effect on the blood. This, when combined with stroke medication that often includes blood thinners, can put people at a higher risk of uncontrolled bleeding.

Fish Oil Supplements and Anti-blood-clotting Medicines 
Fish Oil Supplements and Anti-blood-clotting Medicines.

A study published in 2016 found that many American adults consume prescribed medications and supplements on a regular basis. This has caused some concern among experts since medications and supplements can have drug interactions that could either render them ineffective or prove toxic. Of such interactions, fish oil supplements and anti-clotting medications form a common concern. 

Fish oil supplements are primarily made of omega-3 fatty acids that are not naturally produced by the human body. However, the body still requires them for muscle activity and cell repair. As a result, omega-3 supplements often form a major part of an adult’s diet. 

One of the benefits of these supplements is that they help reduce high blood pressure and prevent the formation of blood clots in the body. When coupled with anticoagulant and antiplatelet drugs, therefore, they increase the risk of bleeding. However, the supplement is generally regarded as safe as long as their combinations are discussed with a physician. (1, 2) 


5 Mixing Different Brands of Drain Cleaners

While removing tough sewage blockages, care should be taken to not mix different brands of drain cleaners. This is because some brands may use acids such as sulfuric or hydrochloric acids in their products, while others use sodium hydroxide and bleach. If mixed together, the acids and bases can produce extreme heat that could burst drainage pipes. 

Drain Cleaners
Drain Cleaners

Mixing different brands of drain cleaners can be dangerous because they come in many varieties that can violently react with each other. 

There are typically two types of drain cleaners available for consumer use. The alkaline ones contain products such as sodium hydroxide, sodium hypochlorite (bleach), or a mixture of the two.

Meanwhile, acidic drain cleaners use sulfuric or hydrochloric acids, both of which are strong inorganic acids. When mixed together, the acids and bases neutralize each other to produce salts and water. However, since this reaction gives off a lot of heat, it poses some danger. 

For instance, the heat of the reaction could weaken old drainage pipes, causing them to leak. If not that, the violent heat of the mixture could cause the solution to shoot out of the drain, harming anyone nearby. This is especially hazardous since the mixture may still contain some of the acid or base leftover from the reaction, causing more damage. (1, 2)

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