Chemicals are a natural and important part of our environment. Even though we often don't think about it, we use chemicals every day. Chemicals help keep our food fresh and our bodies clean. They help our plants grow and fuel our cars. And chemicals make it possible for us to live longer, healthier lives.Under certain conditions, chemicals can be poisonous or have a harmful effect on your health. Some chemicals which are safe, and even helpful in small amounts, can be harmful in larger quantities or under certain conditions.Many people think of chemicals as only those substances used in manufacturing processes. But chemicals are found everywhere--in our kitchens, medicine cabinets, basements, and garages. In fact, most chemical accidents occur in our own homes. And they can be prevented.
You may be exposed to a chemical in three ways:
1. Breathing the chemical
2. Swallowing contaminated food, water, or medication
3. Touching the chemical, or coming into contact with clothing or things that have touched the chemical.
Remember, you may be exposed to chemicals even though you may not be able to see or smell anything unusual.
Children and poisoning
The most common home chemical emergencies involve small children eating medicines. Experts in the field of chemical manufacturing suggest taking hazardous materials out of sight could eliminate up to 75 percent of all poisoning of small children.
Keep all medicines, cosmetics, cleaning products, and other household chemicals out of sight and out of reach of children.
If your child eats or drinks a non-food substance, find any containers immediately and take them to the phone.
Call the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) or Emergency Medical Services (EMS), or 9-1-1, if you have it in your area, or call the operator giving this information.Follow their instructions carefully. Often the first aid advice found on containers may not be appropriate. Do not give anything by mouth until you have been advised by medical professionals.
Home product precautions
Other home accidents can result from trying to improve the way a product works by adding one substance to another, not following directions for use of a product, or by improper storage or disposal of a chemical.
- Avoid mixing common household chemical products. Some combinations of these products, such as ammonia and bleach, can create toxic gases.
- Always read the directions before using a new product. Some products should not be used in a small confined space to avoid inhaling dangerous vapors. Other products should not be used without gloves and eye protection to help prevent the chemical from touching your body. Read and follow the directions.
- Store chemical products properly. Non-food products should be stored tightly closed in their original containers so you can always identify the contents of each container and how to properly use the product.
- Never smoke while using household chemicals.
- Don't use hair spray, cleaning solutions, paint products, or pesticides near the open flame of an appliance, pilot light, lighted candle, fireplace, wood burning stove, etc. Although you may not be able to see or smell them, vapor particles in the air could catch fire or explode.
Cleaning up spills
- If you should spill a chemical, clean it up immediately with rags, being careful to protect your eyes and skin.
- Allow the fumes in the rags to evaporate outdoors in a safe place, then dispose of them by wrapping them in a newspaper and then placing them in a sealed plastic bag. Dispose of these materials with your trash.
- If you don't already have one, buy a fire extinguisher that is labeled for A, B, and C class fires and keep it handy.
- Take care to dispose of chemicals properly. Improper disposal can result in harm to yourself or members of your family, accidentally contaminate our local water supply, or harm other people.
- Improper disposal also can hurt wildlife. Some products can be recycled and further protect our environment.
- Many household chemicals can be taken to your local household hazardous waste collection facility. Many facilities accept pesticides, fertilizers, household cleaners, oil-based paints, drain and pool cleaners, antifreeze and brake fluid.
- If you have questions about how to dispose of a chemical, call the facility or the environmental or recycling agency to learn the proper method of disposal.