June 22, 2024

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After spray sanitizer burns at least 4 kids amid coronavirus scare, 7-Eleven owner charged

BERGEN COUNTY, N.J. — The owner of a New Jersey 7-Eleven has been charged after prosecutors say she caused chemical burns on at least four children after she mixed commercial sanitizer with water and sold it to the public like apparent hand sanitizer.

Manisha Bharade, the River Vale store’s owner, has been charged with child endangerment and deceptive business practice. Her arrest comes in the wake of a countywide state of emergency, and a vow from the state Attorney General to combat those who seek to profit from consumer’s fears of the coronavirus.

“Let me be perfectly clear: If you try to take advantage of our residents during a public health emergency, we will hold you accountable,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal stated. “Retailers who try to make a quick buck by exploiting others will face civil and criminal consequences.”

River Vale police were alerted to the issue when images of one boy’s burns appeared on social media, claiming the afflictions were caused by”Spray Sanitizer,” Lt. John DeVoe said in a Facebook post. 

“Our first priority is to make the public aware that they should not use this item if they purchased it at the River Vale 7-Eleven,” DeVoe said. 

Bharade sold about 14 bottles of the dangerous mixture, which she packaged herself in after-market spray bottles, prosecutors stated in a news release Tuesday. At least five have been returned.

The sanitizer she used to mix the phony product was intended only for commercial use and not to be resold. Three 10-year-olds and an 11-year-old were left with “an apparent chemical reaction from the mixture,” authorities said. State consumer officials also opened an investigation into the sale and promotion of health and sanitation products at her 7-Eleven store and they are still conducting tests to determine precisely what was added to the sanitizer.

Lauren Michele Gehm, a borough resident, had posted about the spray on Monday night, saying she took her son to the hospital after he used the spray he bought at the River Vale 7-Eleven. 

“This was sold to a bunch of kids and they innocently sprayed it and now we are here with Dylan in major pain!” Gehm said in the post. 

Police did not name Gehm’s son as the boy referenced in their post. Her post was shared by over 100 people.

A label on the spray bottle lists it as “perfect for airport carry-on.” Each bottle contains 3 ounces. Though Gehm described it as hand sanitizer, police did not clarify if the spray was intended for skin or surfaces.

Sanitizers have come into demand in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Some stores have sold out while authorities have also warned consumers to watch for price gouging.

Follow Anthony Zurita on Twitter: @AnthonyRZurita

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: 7-Eleven sanitizer burns 4 kids amid coronavirus scare; owner charged

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