What are YOU gonna do about a household chemical emergency?

April 29, 2013

Today’s musing involves chemicals since they are all around us. Just take a moment to think about all the cleaners, chemicals and hazardous materials scattered throughout your home, garage and workshop.

Check for toxic products

When you have some time, snoop around your home and garage and read the labels on all products to ensure you are using, storing and disposing of the material according to the manufacturer’s directions. Many products like oil based paints (including stains, strippers and varnishes); household cleaners, automotive products, lighter fluid and other fuels, pesticides, fertilizers and other yard products contain hazardous components. They will be identified by such words as “warning, ” “danger,” “toxic,” “corrosive,” “irritant,” “flammable” or “caution” found on their labels.

It is critical to store household chemicals in places where children and pets cannot access them. Pay special to containers with the skull and crossbones which is used to indicate the presence of a poisonous chemical. If you see this symbol on a household product, pay attention to the warning. And remember products such as aerosol cans of hair spray and deodorant, nail polish and nail polish remover, toilet bowl cleaners and furniture polishes all fall into the category of hazardous materials too.

Did you know…

  • as many as 500,000 products pose physical or health hazards and can be defined as “hazardous materials” and over 1,000 new synthetic chemicals are introduced each year?!
  • the average U.S. household generates more than 20 pounds of household hazardous waste per year. As much as 100 pounds can accumulate in the home, often remaining there until the residents move out or do an extensive cleanout?! – EPA
  • more than 7 million accidental poisonings occur each year, with more than 75% involving children under age 6?! —The Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons
  • according to the U.S. Poison Control Centers, “A child is accidentally poisoned every 30 seconds at home…” —”Prosperity Without Pollution,” by Joel S. Hirschorn and Kirsten V. Oldenburg, 1991
  • of chemicals commonly found in homes, 150 have been linked to allergies, birth defects, cancer, and psychological abnormalities. — Consumer Product Safety Commission

BEFORE A HOUSEHOLD CHEMICAL EMERGENCY:

Learn risks – Call your local public health department or the Environmental Protection Agency for information about hazardous household materials. And check out the Consumer Product Information Database which provides information on over 22,000 common household products and their potential health effects at www.whatsinproducts.com

The database helps consumers…

  • Identify the chemicals in products they currently use or plan to purchase.
  • Determine the health effects of product formulations.
  • Avoid brands with ingredients that they are sensitive to.
  • View Safety Data Sheets
  • Obtain contact information for manufacturers

Read labels – Always read product labels for proper use, safe storage and disposal of chemicals.

Don’t dump it – Many used or unwanted products dumped down the sink, poured down a storm drain, tossed in the trash or poured on the ground often wind up in nearby rivers, streams or ground water where they can be toxic to humans and aquatic life, even at low concentrations. And those products could disrupt your septic system or contaminate treatment plant sludge. Learn how to dispose of used liquids and containers in advance.

Recycle it? – Call your local recycling center or collection site to ask what chemicals can be recycled or dropped off for disposal — many centers take things like car batteries, oil, tires, paint or thinners, etc. And many communities setup household hazardous waste (HHW) collection programs throughout the year.

Store it – Keep all chemicals and household cleaners in safe, secure locations out of reach of small children.

Put it out – Don’t smoke while using household chemicals.

Consider using non-toxic solutions – Look for “green” and non-toxic products that say petroleum-free, biodegradable, septic safe, phosphate-free, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)-free, and solvent-free. And find more resources below.

DURING A HOUSEHOLD CHEMICAL EMERGENCY:

Call for help – Call your local Poison Control Center (or 1-800-222-1222), 9-1-1, fire department, hospital or emergency medical services. If possible, have container handy since medical professionals may need specific data from label.

First aid tips – Follow instructions on label and be prepared to perform first aid on the victim (e.g. eye or body rinsing, rescue breathing (but have a mouth guard handy), open windows and move away from the scene if there’s a strong odor or vapors, etc.)

Things to watch for if a chemical is swallowed…

Burns on the mouth, tongue and lips
Stomach pains
Open cabinets; spilled or open containers
Difficulty breathing
Convulsions or seizures
Weakness or dizziness
Passed out

What to do…

  • Stay calm and find out exactly what, how much, and how long ago it was swallowed.
  • Call Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222 in the U.S.) or an ambulance and have bottle or container handy (if possible).
  • NEVER give victim anything to eat or drink unless told to do so by Poison Control Center or a Medical professional!!
  • If victim pukes, lay them on their side to keep airway open. Save a sample of the vomit IF the poison is unknown so the hospital can try to identify it.
  • If victim isn’t breathing consider doing Rescue Breathing – but ONLY if sure poison cannot be spread person to person or if you have a mouth shield or mask to avoid cross contamination.

CPR mouth shield                 CPR mouth shield

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents no longer use syrup of ipecac (pronounced ip’- î – kak) as a poison treatment intervention in the home. Immediately contact local Poison Control Center for help.

If you decide to keep a few 1 ounce bottles in your First Aid Kit … use ONLY on the advice of a Medical professional or the Poison Control Center! Syrup of ipecac is sold by most pharmacies without a prescription and used to induce vomiting (makes you puke) — again, use only if instructed to do so.

Above extracted from IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? by Bill and Janet Liebsch

Clean naturally

There are tons of blogs and sites with tips on making non-toxic cleaners for your home so consider doing some research about using simple household products like baking soda, vinegar, liquid detergent, lemon juice, essential oils and other items to clean naturally … and save money!

For example, check out…

About.com Frugal Living 
Care2 Make a Difference
Non-Toxic.info 
OrganizedHome.com
SimpleHomemade.net 

Stay safe and have a great week! 🙂 j & B


Um … oops … hazardous materials accidents (and a link to some safety tips)

April 19, 2013

Major chemical accidents like the recent fertilizer plant explosion in Texas seem most threatening because they often kill people outright, however it is the smaller, more routine accidents and spills that affect most people.

Some of the most common spills involve tanker trucks and railroad tankers containing gasoline, chlorine, acid, or other industrial chemicals. Many spills occur during the transportation of hazardous materials. For example, in 2012, spills from 12,995 highway and 665 railroad accidents resulted in 11 deaths, 160 injuries, and damages exceeding more than $73 million.

The Spills and Accidents database contains statistics on toxic chemical spills and other accidents reported to the National Response Center (NRC … formerly called ERNS, the Emergency Response Notification System). The database shows that 28,591 accidents involving toxic chemicals were reported to the NRC in 2012, meaning that on average, some type of toxic chemical accident was reported 78 times a day in the U.S., or nearly 3 times per hour.

Did you know…

  • as many as 500,000 products pose physical or health hazards and can be defined as “hazardous materials” and over 1,000 new synthetic chemicals are introduced each year?!
  • each year about 400 million metric tons of hazardous wastes are generated worldwide?!
  • according to FEMA, varying quantities of hazardous materials are manufactured, used, or stored at an estimated 4.5 million facilities in the U.S.?!

Hazardous materials can range from waste produced by a petroleum refinery to materials used by the dry cleaners to pesticides stored in your home. And, although the chemical industry has a good safety record, accidents and chemical spills happen and toxic materials may be released into the air and water.

Visit USFRA to learn what to do when a hazardous materials incident affects your community and scroll down to see some hazmat related photos.

Explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas – on Wednesday the explosion killed 14 and injured about 200 with 60 people still unaccounted for as of today. Following the accident, one of the immediate fears was that the accident had released large amounts of ammonia gas, which can cause breathing difficulties or suffocation. (Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those impacted by this tragic accident.)

West Texas fertilizer plant fire

REUTERS / Mike Stone

Texas City disaster – the deadliest industrial accident in U.S. history took place on April 16, 1947, and began with a mid-morning fire on board the French-registered vessel SS Grandcamp which was docked in the Port of Texas City. The fire detonated approximately 2,300 tons (2,086,100 kg) of ammonium nitrate and the resulting chain reaction of fires and explosions killed at least 581 people, including all but one member of the Texas City fire department.

The blast leveled nearly 1,000 buildings on land and sightseeing airplanes flying nearby had their wings shorn off, forcing them out of the sky. Ten miles away, people in Galveston were forced to their knees; windows were shattered in Houston, 40 miles (60 km) away. People felt the shock 100 miles away in Louisiana. Source: Wikipedia

Cataño oil refinery fire – a massive fire and explosion sent huge flames and smoke plumes into the air at the Carribean Petroleum Corporation near San Juan, Puerto Rico. Amazingly there were no fatalities, but 3 people were injured.

Catano oil refinery explosion and fire in Puerto Rico

Train derailment in NJ – four cars (including 3 in the water) contained vinyl chloride which can induce respiratory problems, dizziness and other health effects after short-term exposure — and liver problems and other complications after high levels of exposure over time.

chemical spill due to NJ train derailment

Deepwater Horizon oil spill – Following the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which claimed 11 lives on 20-April-2010, a sea-floor oil gusher flowed unabated for 87 days, until it was capped. The total discharge is estimated at 4.9 million barrels (210 million US gal; 780,000 m3). After several failed efforts to contain the flow, the well was declared sealed on 19-September-2010. Source: Wikipedia

Again .. find some more resources below … and have a safe weekend! j & B

Additional Sources:

US Chemical Safety Board
DOT PHMSA Hazmat Intelligence Portal
Right to Know Network
PollutionIssues.com


If sarin (or a chemical agent) is released… what are YOU gonna do about it?

December 9, 2012

chemical agent safety tipsAs mentioned in our Sarin gas … what is THAT? post the other day, since chemical agents are once again in the news, we wanted to share some safety information from our IT’S A DISASTER! book about what to do in the event of a chemical threat or attack.

Remember, many chemical weapons – or chemical warfare – have been around since World War I … it’s unfortunate we have to even discuss it … but try not to let this topic frighten you. And many of these safety tips apply to a biological agent incident as well, but for now we’re just focusing on chemical agents. Also realize some chemicals used in industry (e.g. chlorine, ammonia, etc) are transported on our highway and rail systems which could also create a hazardous incident in the event of an accident.

Educate yourselves about the types and where to find more information so you are prepared to react in the event of a chemical threat, incident or attack.

BEFORE A CHEMICAL INCIDENT / ATTACK:

Watch & listen for signs – Many chemical agents can cause watery eyes, choking, trouble breathing, coughing or twitching. If you see or hear a lot of people doing this or see a bunch of birds, fish or critters sick or dead, it should raise a red flag. Learn about some common potentially hazardous chemical agents and stay current by listening to radio and TV to hear what local authorities tell people to do — and DO it!

Report strange things – Be aware of your surroundings — watch for strange or suspicious packages, luggage or backpacks … or spray trucks or crop dusters in weird places at strange times … and report suspicious activities to local authorities.

Make a plan – Develop a Family Emergency Plan and Disaster Supplies Kit. Some key items include a battery-powered radio (with extra batteries), food and drinking water, duct tape, plastic and scissors, first aid kit, and sanitation items (soap, extra water and bleach). A sample Plan and tips for Kits are included in our free PDF ebook.

Pick a room – It could take authorities time to determine what (if any) agent was used so pick a room in advance your family could use if told to “shelter-in-place” for several hours. It’s best to pick an internal room where you could block out air IF told to do so. To save time consider measuring and cutting plastic sheets in advance for openings (vents, windows, and doors). Remember, toilets / drains may be vented meaning outside air comes in constantly or when flushed / open (depends on design) – in case you’re using a bathroom as a safe room.

Calculate air for room – Keep in mind people can stay in a sealed off room for only so long (or you’ll run out of air.) FEMA suggests 10 square feet of floor space per person (like 5ft x 2ft / 1.5m x 0.6m ) will provide enough air to prevent carbon dioxide buildup for up to 5 hours.

Be ready to evacuate – Listen to local authorities and leave if you are told to evacuate.

DURING A CHEMICAL ATTACK:

During any type of chemical attack, local authorities will instruct the public on where to go and exactly what to do if exposed to an agent (which may require immediate attention with professional medical staff).

Watch for signs – If you see or hear a lot of people choking, coughing or twitching or see a bunch of sick or dead critters – leave area quickly!

Don’t panic — Listen – Stay calm and listen to radio, TV and officials to …

  • Determine if your area is or was in danger.
  • Learn signs and symptoms of some agents
  • Find out if and where antidotes are being distributed.

IF INDOORS – Stay inside and prepare to “shelter-in-place”…

  • Close your windows, vents and fireplace damper and turn off A/C and fans to reduce air drawn in from outside.
  • Seal gaps under doorways and windows with wet towels, plastic (if available) and duct tape.
  • If you picked a safe room in advance, grab your Disaster Supplies Kit and seal off that room – remember, you can only stay there for so many hours or you’ll run out of air.
  • Some vapors and gases may sink so avoid basements (unless instructed otherwise).

IF OUTDOORS – Stay upwind from the disaster area since many agents can be carried by wind. Try to find a shelter as quickly as possible.

IF IN A VEHICLE – Close your windows and shut off vents to reduce risk and drive away and upwind from the attack site, if possible.

Cover up – Cover mouth and nose to filter air but still let you breathe (like a T-shirt or towel or several layers of paper towel, napkins or tissues).

Feel sick…? – Some agents can cause immediate symptoms and some take a while to show up so watch family members for signs of illness.

Evacuate…? – If you are told to evacuate… DO it! If officials say you have time, close windows, shut vents and turn off attic fans.

Things to avoid:

  • chemicals – any spilled liquid materials, vapors or gas
  • contaminated food or water – don’t eat or drink any food or water that may have been exposed to materials

Stay away – Get away from the attack site to avoid contamination.

AFTER A CHEMICAL ATTACK:

Feel sick…? – In some cases, people won’t be aware they have been exposed to an agent — most cause immediate symptoms and some take a while to show up so continue watching for signs of illness.

Don’t panic — Listen – Stay calm and listen to radio, TV and officials to …

  • Determine if your area is or was in danger.
  • Learn signs and symptoms of specific chemical agent(s).
  • Find out if antidotes are being distributed by authorities and, if so, where you can get them.

Don’t go there – Don’t return home until local authorities say it is safe.

Air out – Open windows, vents and turn on fans to air things out.

Clean up – A person, critter or item that has been exposed could spread it…

  • decontamination – follow instructions from authorities since it depends on chemical. May need to shower with or without soap or may be told to avoid water – check first
  • strange symptoms – if unusual symptoms show up, get to a hospital or medical expert right away
  • store clothes & shoes – put exposed clothing and shoes in tightly sealed containers or bags and ask local authorities how to get rid of them
  • tell people you’ve been exposed – tell everyone who comes in contact with you that you may have been exposed to a chemical agent
  • land and property – ask local authorities how to clean up

Strange vapors or danger – Report these to local authorities immediately.

For more information about chemical (or biological) agents, visit the CDC Emergency Preparedness & Response site .. or .. call CDC Hotline at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or 1-888-232-6348 (TTY).

Above extracted from IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? – Learn more about the book or ebook


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