Chemical that triggered evacuation in Clayton meant to be used in ventilated area

Johnston County News

CLAYTON, N.C. (WNCN) — An odor caused by a common lubricant caused a Clayton rehabilitation center start evacuating residents.

Crews responded to Springbrook Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Clayton around 8 a.m. Monday.

At first, they believed a strong odor was caused by a gas leak, but later discovered it was a rust removal spray known as PB Blaster.

PB Blaster has been around for more than 60 years, and it’s sold at nearly every hardware store across the Triangle.

“It’s been around since 1957, so it’s kind of a staple in most shops,” said Phillip Flood, general manager of Town & Country Hardware.

While PB Blaster is similar to many other lubricants, Flood says one thing sets it apart from the competition.

“It’s got an additional chemical in it that kind of has a chemical reaction that gets into rusty, corrosive areas, and kind of breaks them up,” said Flood.

That reaction has a very distinct side effect.

“Oh, the smell is horrible,” said Flood. “It’s got a very distinct smell. You can smell it from a mile away.”

It was that smell that caused Springbrook Nursing & Rehabilitation Center to evacuate more than 40 patients after maintenance workers used PB Blaster on multiple meal carts — against the warning on the label.

“You don’t want to use it in a confined space,” said Flood. “Like a lot of these chemicals, it is a chemical, it’s made to be used out in the open in a well-ventilated area.”

While there are other products on the market without the smell, Flood says the incident is no reason not to use something that works.

“As those chemicals tend to do their job and dissipate, it goes away,” said Flood. “It’s not a forever smell.”

Blaster Corp. sent CBS 17 this statement: 

PB Blaster Penetrant does have a strong smell and, as with any smell, some individuals are more sensitive to it than others. However, when used as directed, the product is safe and effective. To get rid of the smell, time and ventilation are your greatest allies. The components of Blaster that cause the odor are volatile and will dissipate over time.

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