September 28, 2023

NIOSH Publishes Recommendations for Responding to Chemical Suicide Attempts

Emergency responders entering an area where a suspected chemical suicide attempt has occurred should wear self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) or a combination SCBA and Type C supplied-air respirator with a full facepiece, according to a new advisory from NIOSH. The agency recommends that responders treat the area as the site of a hazardous materials incident and assume the environment is IDLH (immediately dangerous to life or health) until a hazard assessment can determine which PPE and support tools, such as monitoring equipment, are necessary during each phase of the response.

Chemical suicide incidents typically involve the mixing of consumer products or household chemicals to produce hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen cyanide, or carbon monoxide. Information on chemical suicides from the Chemical Hazardous Emergency Medical Management (CHEMM) database indicates that these hazardous vapors are typically released in a confined space such as a car, bathroom, or closet. The NIOSH advisory states that documented injuries to first responders have resulted from inhalation and transdermal absorption due to “inconsistent” PPE usage.

To download the advisory, visit the NIOSH website. More information is available from the CHEMM database, which is maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services.