On September 16th, 15 football players at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, MD reported developing rashes and/or what looked like first- and second-degree chemical burns, throughout the entire preceding week of practice. One student, according to school principal Sam Rivera, spent three days in a hospital because his burns became infected — to the extent that the student will be unable to complete the rest of the football season, in fact.
The culprit? A powerful, and misused, cleaning agent called Virex II 256.
The incident started when team coaches suspected that one player had a staph infection, and the team trainer requested that the entire locker room be sprayed down with cleaning agent to ensure that the infection would not spread. The powerful disinfectant is intended only for use on floors and walls, and local Baltimore news station WBALtv.com even notes that the product’s label displays a warning about permanent damage to skin and eyes if the product is misused.
Despite the label warnings, it appears that the entire locker room was sprayed with the agent, and to make matters worse, equipment such as football helmets and pads (which were used the very next day) were sprayed down as well. Players noted burning sensations where their equipment came in contact with skin. Despite complaints from multiple players, the practice was still conducted for its normal three hours.
Some players ended up with first and second degree burns on their chests and backs, and as stated previously, one player had chemical burns serious enough to warrant a three-day hospital stay, a recuperation period at home, and the news that he won’t be able to play for the rest of the season (which is likely to hurt his chance at getting a football scholarship for college).
Parents aren’t just outraged that the team coaches and trainers ignored players’ complaints throughout the practice; they’re furious that the school maintenance department did not educate its staff on the proper usage of the cleaning agent.
While it’s clear that powerful disinfectants are necessary to ensure the safety of large groups when imminent health issues are present, this incident is proof that these cleaning chemicals cannot be applied at random; there’s a reason why professional cleaning companies exist, and why so many individuals and organizations outsource their cleaning tasks to professionals.
“I think it’s terrible that these kids had to suffer through these burns based on the negligence of using products for the wrong purpose. Most chemical products are designed for a specific purpose, and its paramount that you read the labels and use them for what their intended for,” says Rob Nelson, Vice President of Rebound USA.
In the meantime, Springbrook High School will have to cope with losing a handful of its key football players for the time being, and it can expect to face (and probably lose) some very serious lawsuits that have already been filed by some very angry parents.
And if you’re wondering what happened with the purported staph infection that caused this whole incident? It ended up being a false alarm.