After Inhaling Hot Sauce Fumes, Three People Are Hospitalized

It all started out as an innocent prank at a Chicago-area high school.

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It all started out as an innocent joke. Now a Chicago-area high school student is facing misdemeanor charges for allegedly dumping a particularly scorching hot sauce into the school cafeteria’s marinara sauce.

Three kitchen workers at Highland Park High School were sent to the hospital with symptoms of coughing, wheezing and skin rashes, according to a report by ABC News. Police said the workers did not ingest the sauce; rather they suffered a reaction by simply being near it, which begs the question: What sort of hot sauce could be so potent that just its fumes send people to the hospital?

(More: Is your refrigerator running?  Wisconsin legislator attempts to make prank calls illegal.)

“I don’t think you can find this one in the store,” Highland Park police Deputy Chief George Pfutzenreuter told the Chicago Tribune of the Da’ Bomb brand hot sauce that was allegedly poured into the tomato sauce. According to the hot sauce maker’s website, the sauces range in intensity from a fiery 119,00 Scoville units to a scorching 1.5 million units, a heat level on par with pepper spray.

Da’ Bomb claims that after one taste of its hot sauce, “Suddenly the world explodes in blinding flashes of heat all around you. You’re terrified. You want to hide, but there’s nowhere to go,” which may sound like a bit of an overstatement, but then this soldier’s reaction to the hot sauce, uploaded to YouTube, pretty much matches  the company’s description word for word:

Investigators are still trying to determine which of Da’ Bomb brand’s sauces made it into the marinara sauce. In the meantime, ABC News reports that the school will install security cameras in the cafeteria to ward off future pranksters, or at least capture their mischief on tape.

(More: WikiLeaks creates elaborate New York Times hoax, fooling readers.)


It is important to remember that every person has a different tolerance to chili peppers and the fumes.  My hobby is making pepper sauces and very hot dry spice mixes (rubs).  The fumes get to me every time, and, I am being careful.  I always wear gloves, goggles, and a respirator mask.

I have found that the best first aid for pepper burn in one's mouth is equal parts of quality sour cream and white table sugar. mixed together.  A couple of tablespoons of that will remove about 85% to 95% of the burn almost immediately.  Within a few minutes, there will be very little burn remaining.


What's scary here is that someone who was not a member of the kitchen staff was able to gain access to the area where food is being stored and prepared without being seen.  That's a major problem with potentially much more serious consequences than runny noses and watery eyes.  


Come'on fumes? I grow my own ghost peppers and make my own salsa. Not once have I been over come by fumes. I've gotten 2nd degree chemical burns when I handled the peppers with my bare hands but the fumes never harmed me except for making my eyes water.


Hell, I couldn't even make it past B dubs hottest wings.. That sauce would probably kill me..

BillManchester 1 Like

You can buy it over the counter! I picked this up with several others at a spot in San Diego.  I have a similar story, I can home to grill a spicy steak and we ran out of gas, so I decided to grill it inside.  I thought it was covered but a small stream of steam was being released from the pan; my kids came into the kitchen saying their eyes were burning and they couldn't breath.  I sent them outside ran into the kitchen and recovered the pan.  The stuff made a killer pepper spray.  My kids wanted me to throw out the steak, but I said what one comment already stated This is going to taste good!  The culprit with this stuff is it contains a small amount of the ghost pepper. . . 

jparsons_net 3 Like

I've got Da'Bomb in my fridge. It's very hot. I use a quarter-teaspoon in a pot full of chilli and it's still way too hot for most people. If you use too much the fumes will hurt people. The soldier in that video was in serious pain.

Oh, and ZachNewhouse is right about misusing the phrase "begs the question." Journalists and writers, see p. 269 of the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. Begging the question is a fallacy in which you assume the truth of what you are trying to prove in order to prove it. To beg the question does not mean "to raise the question."


Beyond ridiculous. I remember back in high school when I used to think teachers were over reacting. At the time I tried to hold the frame of mind that I might understand when I'm older. Now i'm older and I realize I was right, high school administrators might be the most over reactive group of drama queens on the planet.

ZachNewhouse 3 Like

"...rather they suffered a reaction by simply being near it, which begs the question: ..."

For the love of god, "begs the question" DOES NOT mean the same as "raises the question"!!! "Begging the question" is a logical fallacy wherein the questioner presents a circular argument in which the conclusion was included in the premise. This mistake is made all the time online, but I would have expected Time to hire "journalists" with enough intelligence to avoid such an amateur-ish mistake...

cpc65 1 Like

Back in the 80's I worked in a restaurant and occasionally someone would send back their Buffalo wings because they weren't hot enough. One of the cooks was an older, crotchety man who would say, "They want it hot? I'll give them HOT!" He would then take straight hot sauce (we normally diluted it with melted margarine), Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce and raw Cajun spice, mix it all together and zap it in the microwave. You couldn't breath near that stuff and I swear the fumes could strip paint. Nobody ever sent them back a second time for lack of hotness. We would joke with the cook and say he should bottle it and call it Angry Johnny's Flaming Hot Sauce.  

buffalo.barnes102 2 Like

I'm a "Hot Head", though I have calmed down a bit in my later years. It became an obsession for a while. I have tasted some hot sauces that literally take your breath away. I can understand how the cafeteria workers were overcome by the fumes. This was not a very good prank to pull. If you don't know how to use and eat hot sauce properly, you are in for a bad night. As we "Pros" say: This is going to burn. Twice!"

lxixwithu 1 Like

That looks like my kind of marinara sauce!