ELYSBURG - An Elysburg man was taken to an area hospital for evaluation Tuesday after inhaling toxic fumes from drain cleaners while attempting to unclog a drain in the kitchen of his residence in a housing development. The resulting communications alert for emergency assistance was listed as as hazard-material incident.

Firefighters and ambulance crews from Elysburg and Overlook used self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and air monitoring devices as a precaution for their own safety before entering the home. Under the direction of Dennis Kroh, Elysburg fire chief, and Clint Herr, Overlook fire chief, a ventilation unit was used to clear out the toxic fumes. Fire officials said the fumes did not spread to adjoining dwellings. The haz-mat incident was cleared in about an hour.

According to reports from the scene, Thomas Martin, of 309 Nottingham Drive, was using two separate commercial brands of caustic drain cleaner when the combination caused a chemical reaction that triggered a concentration of fumes. Martin, who is about 60, was sickened when he breathed in some of the fumes, but had the presence of mind to walk to the development's office and emergency assistance was summoned. He was treated by Elysburg EMTs and then taken to the hospital in the fire department's ambulance for observation and treatment.

The incident prompted a warning from fire officials in both sections of Ralpho Township that residents should always be alert and take extra precautions by reading the labels and following safety instructions when using any kind of chemical cleaner for maintenance in their dwellings.

"Use caution and read the warning labels on drain-cleaning products and never mix them. The combination of hydrochloric acid and sodium hypochlorite (bleach), both chemicals used in this incident, creates chlorine gas. Both drain cleaning product containers warned of this potential danger," Kroh said.

"Other departments in Northumberland County have answered calls over the past week for incidents involving use of caustic materials for cleaning and other purposes," Kroh said. Using rubber gloves when working with these cleaning solutions is one safety rule to follow.

Care also should be taken by area residents in using a blow torch or other incendiary device in attempts to open frozen water lines.