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March 2, 2005
Safety Tips from the Local Emergency Planning Committee
Household Chemicals Require Special Handling
Nearly every family uses products that contain hazardous materials or chemicals. Cleaning products such as bleach and detergents, indoor pesticides such as mouse poisons or ant traps, and automotive fluids such as antifreeze can be dangerous if spilled, inhaled, or used improperly.
Although the risk of a chemical accident is slight, knowing how to handle these products and how to react during an emergency can reduce the risk of injury.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers the following advice for buying and storing hazardous household chemicals safely:
- Buy only as much of a chemical as you think you will use. Leftover material can be shared with neighbors or donated to a business, charity, or government agency. For example, excess pesticide could be offered to a greenhouse or garden center, and theater groups often need surplus paint.
- Keep products containing hazardous materials in their original containers and never remove the labels unless the container is corroding. Corroding containers should be repackaged and clearly labeled.
- Never store hazardous products in food containers.
- Never mix household hazardous chemicals or waste with other products. Incompatibles, such as chlorine bleach and ammonia, may react, ignite, or explode.
- Take the following precautions to prevent and respond to accidents:
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use.
- Never smoke while using household chemicals.
- Never use hair spray, cleaning solutions, paint products, or pesticides near an open flame (e.g., 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 may catch fire or explode.
- Clean up any chemical spill immediately. Use rags to clean up the spill. Wear gloves and eye protection. Allow the fumes in the rags to evaporate outdoors, then dispose of the rags by wrapping them in a newspaper and placing them in a sealed plastic bag in your trash can.
Learn to recognize the symptoms of toxic poisoning. They are:
- Difficulty breathing.
- Irritation of the eyes, skin, throat, or respiratory tract.
- Changes in skin color.
- Headache or blurred vision.
- Clumsiness or lack of coordination.
- Cramps or diarrhea.
Be prepared to seek medical assistance:
- Post the number of the emergency medical services and the poison control center by all telephones. In an emergency situation, you may not have time to look up critical phone numbers. The national poison control number is (800) 222-1222.
- If there a leak has occurred and there is danger of fire or explosion:
- Get out of the residence immediately. Do not waste time collecting items or calling the fire department. Call the fire department from outside (a cellular phone or a neighbor’s phone) once you are safely away from danger.
- Stay upwind and away from the residence to avoid breathing toxic fumes.
If someone has been exposed to a household chemical:
- Find any containers of the substance that are readily available in order to provide requested information. Call emergency medical services.
- Follow the emergency operator or dispatcher’s first aid instructions carefully. The first aid advice found on containers may be out of date or inappropriate. Do not give anything by mouth unless advised to do so by a medical professional.
- Discard clothing that may have been contaminated. Some chemicals may not wash out completely.
For additional information on responding to emergencies involving hazardous chemicals, visit the FEMA Web site at www.fema.gov
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