Walmart in Texas evacuated: Sickening gas or mass hysteria?

I don’t know about this story. It’s not very coherent. More information is needed.

Mystery spray causes evacuation, sickness at Walmart in west Harris County | khou.com Houston.

A Walmart west of Houston was evacuated late Sunday after two men sprayed a substance that made some people ill, deputies said.

It happened at the store near Highway 6 and Westpark Drive around 8:45 p.m., according to deputies with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

Dozens of employees and about 100 to 150 customers had to be evacuated. Some of them started to experience trouble breathing and suffered burning in their eyes and throat, deputies said.

There were reports of wheezing, sneezing and even vomiting. People said they smelled something “funny”, that they heard “somebody was mixing chemicals in there and throwing it in the air.” A hazardous materials team was called in. There, the reports fizzle out. The Sheriff’s office said the air quality tested fine.

I have looked at several sites for more info on this story. No place have I found what the sprayed substance was suspected to be. It could have been some canned gas, household cleaners, even hairspray or cologne. Anything really could have triggered it. It actually need not have been nefarious intent. It could have been someone just testing or goofing off in the store and observers mistook it for poisoning. It does not take toxic chemicals to make people believe they are becoming ill. The key to this story is that it was not reported that any toxic substances were found! Toxic gases just don’t disappear without a trace. They leave residue. Or the are captured within the area (Walmart is a pretty big store. It’s unclear if the problem area was small or widespread.) The police say “suspects” may be identifiable by security cameras.

So, many questions remain with this event. I strongly suspect it will turn out to be something less than “toxic”. Just ask anyone who is sensitive to strong scents – it makes them ill even if we think it smells good.

  10 comments for “Walmart in Texas evacuated: Sickening gas or mass hysteria?

  1. Daran
    August 19, 2013 at 7:07 PM

    why is every gas/pesticide drift mass hysteria!? the mass hysteria explanation for all these events is nonsense.
    I know for a fact that crop sprays can drift for tens of miles. I worked on farms and know the smell of them.
    supermarkets quite often have gas leaks, the fire brigade is often called for ammonia leaks at our local woolworths

  2. Brian
    August 20, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    I have gone into Wal Mart and had this exact problem, minus the hysteria. Burning eyes, trouble breathing- the vomiting could well be from people coughing up a lung. In my case, once I stumbled back outside and had a couple lungfuls of air- I was fine. Never went back…

    And yes… the air *did* smell funny. Also, I am in Orlando, just as a point of reference.

  3. Brian
    August 20, 2013 at 9:12 AM

    I was just informed- so did my wife.

  4. Douglas Boyle
    August 20, 2013 at 1:53 PM

    Apparently this is not unheard of in Wal-Mart. Something similar happened in Baltimore 2 years ago.

    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-county/bs-md-co-bleach-assault-20111008,0,2540895.story

  5. Daran
    August 22, 2013 at 2:37 AM

    One person calls hysteria for the explanation for the ” Mad Gasser ” and it is solved?
    I think mass hysteria is far rarer than gas leaks or nutters scaring people with gas.

    • August 22, 2013 at 6:51 AM

      That’s absurd Daran. It’s exactly the opposite. As I noted, toxic “gases” just don’t disappear, they leave traces. No traces of a gas was ever found for the Mattoon cases. It CERTAINLY had an element of mass hysteria even though there were likely other factors. A mad gasser was the sensational story that shook out.

  6. Daran
    August 23, 2013 at 5:39 AM

    No traces of the gases tested for, could have been odourless and tasteless. Anyway, what about infrasound, could have been that:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infrasound

    • August 23, 2013 at 8:05 AM

      Even odorless and colorless gases such as carbon monoxide are testable. Other than that, I’m having trouble thinking of other gases that are odorless/colorless and cause illness and are transportable to a Walmart. Actually, the most parsimonious answer IS mass hysteria over something like spraying “liquid ass” or some horrid air “freshener” product and have people overreact. It FEELS like a dangerous situation and people overreact.

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