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Workers hospitalized after chemical cloud spreads at IHOP

A cloud of chlorine gas emanated from the dishwasher in an IHOP last week after an employee mixed two cleaning products and started the wash cycle. "There was a big cloud of smoke and it filled up the air. It smelled like straight bleach," according to one witness.

This incident could lead to workers' compensation claims against the restaurant for the injuries to the employees. A workers' compensation claim arises when a Denver employee is injured in a workplace accident. Those Coloradoans who are injured by an unsafe environment may recover for medical expenses, lost wages, or other damages that resulted from the injury.

Nine IHOP employees remain hospitalized and are being treated for inhalation injuries from what was later determined to be chlorine gas. The gas was produced when the employee combined chlorine bleach and a product called Delimer which contains phosphoric acid. Chlorine gas has a strong odor and can cause irritation in the eyes and respiratory system.

The director of the local poison control center near the IHOP said that people frequently mix bleach with other cleaning products to increase the cleaning products' effectiveness. There have been allegations that this combination is standard practice at IHOP restaurants, and that employees and customers may have been exposed to smaller amounts of the gas in the past without realizing it.

Reports indicate that the building was evacuated quickly and that everyone showing symptoms was promptly treated. Most of the individuals have needed oxygen treatment. None of the injuries are life-threatening. Some employees that were not treated right away were seen coughing and spitting later in the day as they remained gathered in the parking lot.

Source: Saturday Gazette-Mail, "Chemical cloud at IHOP, 9 hospitalized," Kathryn Gregory, Feb. 17, 2012

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