Each year new environmental regulations are created around the world that effect the way industry creates the goods we consume. We expect industry to properly handle their hazardous materials and waste, yet have you ever stopped to think about how you use and dispose of hazardous materials around the home?
All of us have many products in our homes and garages that may be hazardous if used, stored or disposed of improperly. They may pose serious fire, health or environmental hazards. If they are used, stored and disposed of properly, however, they can be relatively safe.
Familiarize yourself with each product, its location and purpose. More products are hazardous than you may think. Here are a few of the common ones:
Some of these products we wouldn't think of as hazardous because we use them on our bodies, however, if misused they can be dangerous. For instance most hairsprays and aerosols are highly flammable.
Hazardous products must be handled with respect! Read labels and follow directions carefully. Words to look for:
DANGER - WARNING - CAUTION
Do not purchase more than is need for the job, you'll only have to contend with left over material. If you have an unneeded product that was recently purchased, well-stored, and well labelled, give it to a friend neighbor or community group that could use it.
Cleaners and other household chemicals can be very deadly and should be stored in cabinets that are out of reach of children. Lock the cabinets if necessary. Teach children about the dangers of chemicals. In addition keep emergency phone numbers right next to the phone or attached to the phone. These numbers should include Ambulance, Fire, Police, Poison Control (or equivalent if you don't live in the United States), and your personal doctor.
Household chemicals should not be stored with food products as they could spill contaminating your food.
Propane cylinders, gas cans, charcoal lighter and automotive fluids should not be stored in the house. Compressed gasses like propane should be stored outside or in sheds that are extremely well ventilated. Never store flammable liquids or gasses near sources of heat or ignition, and only store them in their original containers or containers approved for the flammable liquid or gas. In the United States these containers should approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
Household chemicals should not be transferred to different containers unless the container is properly labeled and compatible with the chemical. In addition chemicals should never be transferred to containers that originally contained food (such as soda bottles or milk jugs).
Many products are recyclable. Contact your recycling coordinator or local department of environmental services to find out what is being recycled in your community.
Less hazardous products can be used for common household chores. For instance occasionally pouring baking soda and vinegar down your drains will keep them from clogging up.
Products should NEVER be discarded on the ground or poured into storm drains. Many products shouldn't even be disposed of in the trash or down the toilet. These products should be saved and taken to Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collections. Contact your sanitation department, local or state department of environmental services for information on HHW collections in your area.
Post the emergency contact telephone numbers by your telephone and on your refrigerator. These numbers should include: your fire department, police, ambulance your personal doctor and if you live in the United States the Poison Control Center. In most areas of the United States (but not all) the emergency telephone number for fire, police and ambulance is 911. The Poison Control Center now has one central toll free number that can be used anywhere in the United States, it is: 1-800-222-1222. For more information on Poison Control Centers please visit the American Association of Poison Control Centers webpage.
|Product type||Personal Safety||Options|
All hazardous products should be: kept out of reach of children & pets; used in well-ventilated areas only; and kept in original containers & labelled. Always thoroughly wash your hands after handling hazardous products.
|Abrasive Cleaner||May contain ammonia (see ammonia)|
|Ammonia||DO NOT mix with bleach (poisonous gas)|
|Bleach||DO NOT mix with ammonia or acids (poisonous gas)|
|Disinfectant||May contain bleach (see bleach)|
|Drain Opener||May contain lye (corrosive)|
|Flea Collar||Avoid skin contact|
|Furniture Polish||Keep away from heat & flame|
|Household Batteries||Beware of leakage corrosive|
|Mothballs||Keep away from children & pets (resembles candy)|
|Mouse & Rat Poison||Keep out of reach of children & pets|
|Furniture Oils||Don't bury oily rags in a rag bucket, clothes hamper, etc. (may spontaneously combust if not allowed to air out)|
|Oven Cleaner||May contain lye (corrosive)|
|Roach & Ant Killer||Keep out of reach of children & Pets|
|Rug & Upholstery Cleaner||Avoid skin contact|
|Enamel or Oil-Based Paint||Keep away from heat & flame|
|Latex or Water-Based Paint||May contain mercury (toxic)|
|Paint Thinner||Avoid skin contact|
|Paint & Varnish Remover||Keep away from heat & flame|
|Photographic Chemicals||Use exhaust hood and avoid skin contact|
|Stains & Varnishes||Keep away from heat & flame|
|Antifreeze||Keep away from children & pets (highly toxic and sweet taste)|
|Auto Battery||Beware of leakage; corrosive|
|Used Oil||Avoid prolonged exposure|
|Transmission Fluid||Avoid prolonged exposure|
|Windshield Wiper Fluid||May contain methanol (toxic)|
|Fertilizer||Keep seperated from fuel oil, gasoline, etc.|
|Insecticides||Avoid inhalation, skin contact|
|Herbicides||Avoid inhalation, skin contact|
If you need to cite this page, you can copy this text:
Kenneth Barbalace. Guide for Handling Household Chemicals. EnvironmentalChemistry.com. 1997. Accessed on-line: 12/8/2023