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 National Library of Medicine’s Household Products Database that provides information on over 12,000 common household products and their potential health effects at http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/

The database is designed to help answer the following typical questions and more:

  • What are the chemical ingredients and their percentage in specific brands?
  • Which products contain specific chemical ingredients?
  • Who manufactures a specific brand? How do I contact this manufacturer?
  • What are the acute and chronic effects of chemical ingredients in a specific brand?

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

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What would YOU do if a bomb or explosive device goes off…? (Safety tips on dealing with an explosion)

April 15, 2013

Today’s Monday Musing is a somber one. This afternoon two small bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon about 4 hours into the race. According to news reports at least 2 other devices were discovered and dismantled by local bomb squads.

Boston marathon bomb

Eyewitness Roupen Bastajian, a 35-year-old state trooper from R.I. who had just finished running the marathon, said “…a lot of people were amputated. … At least 25 to 30 people have at least one leg missing, or an ankle missing, or two legs missing.” As of this writing there have been 3 deaths and over 130 injuries.

As we’ve seen for many decades, terrorists have frequently used explosive devices as one of their most common weapons. Thankfully Americans haven’t had to deal with too many mass casualty bombing situations, but many countries see these types of incidents on a weekly or monthly basis.

victim at Boston Marathon bombingUnfortunately there are many “how-to” manuals available online and in books so it’s very easy for bad people and nutjob pukes to make bombs and IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) in various shapes and sizes.

Explosive devices are very portable, using vehicles and humans as a means of transport, and they can be easily detonated from remote locations or by suicide bombers. Oftentimes terrorists pack bombs with ball bearings, screws, nails, nuts or other metal pieces to try to inflict as much carnage and chaos as possible.

Besides being vigilant  and having good situational awareness, there are some things people can do to prepare for and respond to an explosive device or incident.

BEFORE ANY TYPE OF EXPLOSION OR INCIDENT:

Be aware & watch – Sounds simple and it is. Stay current on news, alerts and threats – but don’t obsess over them – then start making a habit of being aware of your surroundings. You don’t have to be paranoid or obvious – just make a mental note of the EXITS when you go to places and watch for things that look strange or out of place especially if you walk or drive the same route day after day.

Make a kit – Make disaster supplies kits for your home, office, locker and car. Pack things like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries, medicines (if needed), a change of clothes, comfortable shoes, some toiletries, tools, etc.

Have a plan – Check emergency plans for schools, day care and nursing home to find out where everyone goes if evacuated.

Report strange things – Again, be aware of your surroundings — watch for strange or suspicious packages, abandoned briefcases or backpacks and report suspicious activities to local authorities.

Stay current on threats – The Department of Homeland Security www.dhs.gov and Public Safety Canada www.publicsafety.gc.ca post alerts and news about national security online. And of course read or watch local news to find out what’s going on in your area.

Be ready to evacuate – Listen to authorities — if told to leave – DO it!

Learn first aid – Take a basic first aid and CPR class … or join a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team)

DURING AN EXPLOSION:

Don’t panic… – Stay calm and don’t stop to retrieve personal items or make phone calls – get to a safe place.

Things to watch out for:
•  falling objects – if things are falling off bookshelves or from the ceiling get under a sturdy table or desk
 flying debris – many blast injuries are caused by flying glass, metal, ball bearings and other materials
•  fires – stay below the smoke (crawl or walk like a duck)
– only use the stairs (don’t use elevators)
– check doors with back of hand before opening  (If HOT, do NOT open .. find another exit!)
•  weak structures – be careful since floors, stairs, roofs or walls might be weakened by the blast

If indoors – Stay put if building is not damaged but leave if warned of any radiation or chemical inside. Cover nose and mouth and find shelter in a building not damaged by blast and prepare to “shelter-in-place”, if necessary.

If outdoors – Cover mouth and nose with a cloth or handkerchief and take shelter in a safe building as quickly as possible!

If in a vehicle – Keep windows up, close vents, use “recirculating” air in case of airborne threats, and keep listening to radio for updates. If possible, drive away from site.

AFTER AN EXPLOSION:

If you are trapped in an area:
•  light – use a flashlight – never use matches or lighters in case there are gas leaks
•  be still – try to stay still so you won’t kick up dust
•  breathing – cover your mouth with a piece of clothing
•  make noise – tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can hear you (shouting may cause you to inhale a lot of dust)

Rescuing others – Untrained persons should not try to rescue people who are inside a collapsed building… wait for emergency personnel to arrive – then, if they need you, they will ask.

Avoid crowds – Be aware large crowds may be targeted for another attack.

Limited services – Cellular service and towers may get overwhelmed after an incident so realize you may have limited access. And officials may cut off mobile service around an attack site to prevent further remote detonations of explosive devices.

Be ready to evacuate – Listen to authorities — if told to leave due to another threat, attack or explosion – do it!

Stay away – Avoid the scene(s) as much as possible. There will be a heavy law enforcement involvement at local, state and federal levels following a terrorist attack due to the event’s criminal nature. Also realize that health and mental health and Fire/EMS resources in the affected communities may be strained or overwhelmed.

Stay current on news – Listen to updates but again, don’t obsess over an event. Extensive media coverage can be overwhelming so try to go about your daily routines and always be aware of your surroundings.

Above extracted from our IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? book 

Also review some tips on what to do if you receive a bomb threat or suspicious package. j & B


Some reasons to leave your shoes at the door

April 8, 2013

remove your shoes at the doorThink about all the places you walk every day then ask yourself … do you really want to bring those shoes with all that crap (or whatever) into your home..?!

First things first … I hate wearing shoes. The instant I walk in the door my shoes are off and they stay off until I have to go out in public again. I’m not like Cody Lundin but I’ve gone barefoot most of my life.

On the other hand, Bill has different shoes he wears indoors versus the ones he wears out in public.

In hindsight, these are both good practices when you consider all the stuff you track in from the great outdoors.

Removing shoes at the door is very common in many countries and cultures, but Americans rarely practice shoe removal.

But if you have kids (both 2 legged ones and 4 legged furry ones), remember all that gunk you bring in — including pollens, pesticides, poop and more — gets into the fibers of your carpets.

leave your shoes at the door

Of course if you have linoleum, tile or hardwood floors, those are much easier to clean … but how often do you clean them?

Some studies show that we are tracking all types of dangerous pollutants into our homes. For example:

  • A 2010 study by the University of Arizona found about 60% of household dust comes from outside and is primarily brought into the home from the bottom of shoes. The findings published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology show contaminants include arsenic, lead and DDT!
  • Typically when people hear lead, they think of lead-based paint used in older homes which can cause problems for young children and the unborn. However, lead is commonly tracked into homes on shoes due to auto exhaust, smelting and soil deposits.
  • Another 2010 study by the California state Department of Public Health and CHAMACOS revealed 22 pesticides were commonly found in the dust of homes in Salinas. Dr. Frank Lipman explains the Environmental Protection Agency and National Institute of Environmental Health found that low level chronic pesticide exposure as found in these homes can cause numerous health problems, especially for fetuses and young children.
  • Rodale reports a study published in the journal of Environmental Science & Technology, found a connection between toxic coal tar and cancer. Coal tar, a known carcinogen used in sealants, is tracked into homes from driveways, playgrounds and parking lots.

Think about this next time you’re stretched out on the floor playing with your kids or critters. And also remember little ones routinely transfer things from the floor to their hands to their mouths. Eating some dirt is good … but sometimes it can be bad.

So … going forward, consider taking off your shoes before entering your home to reduce the amount of toxins and other crud you bring in. And ask family members and visitors to remove their shoes at the door too. Realize some visitors may be uncomfortable with it, but hopefully most will comply. There are some cool signs and doormats that can help drive home the point… 🙂

take off your shoes doormat

Stay safe and have a great week!  j & B


Cell phones and the ick factor (cootie facts + cleaning tips)

April 1, 2013

We read an article last week about a thief in Uganda who contracted the deadly Ebola virus from a cell phone. It turns out he stole several phones from patients at a hospital and one belonged to a man with hemorrhagic fever (which recently killed 16 people in the African nation). The thief was caught when he returned to the hospital for treatment.

Photo: NIAID (MRSA)The story was a good reminder about how nasty cell phones are.

Think about all the places you use and place your phone every day.

Then remember … germs thrive in warm environments and smartphones generate heat .. plus your hands, face, mouth and body heat (if you carry your phone in a pocket) all add to the cootie cocktail.

Did you know… cellphones carry 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats..?!

Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, explains while toilets tend to get cleaned frequently, because people associate the bathroom with germs, cellphones are often left out of the cleaning routine.

Tests of eight random mobile phones from a Chicago office found “abnormally high numbers of coliforms, a bacteria indicating fecal contamination,” reports the Journal, with about 2,700 to 4,200 units of the bacteria on each phone. (Drinking water is supposed to have less than one unit of the bacteria per half-cup.)

Scientists say the sort of bacteria found in the study can result in flu, pinkeye or diarrhea. “People are just as likely to get sick from their phones as from handles of the bathroom,” Jeffrey Cain, the president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, told the Journal.

While the above test sample is small, a 2011 study in Britain showed one in six mobile phones were contaminated with fecal matter … and a 2009 study involving the phones of 200 hospital staff members found that 94.5 percent of the phones were contaminated with some kind of bacteria, many of which were resistant to multiple antibiotics.

So how do you clean a phone?

Phone companies caution against using most household cleaners since they are too harsh and may damage the coating on touchscreens. Apple’s manual specifically says “Don’t use window cleaners, household cleaners, compressed air, aerosol sprays, solvents, alcohol, ammonia, or abrasives to clean iPhone.” BlackBerry’s manual states: “Do not use liquid, aerosol cleaners, or solvents on or near your BlackBerry device.” It’s best to use a very soft, nonabrasive cloth that is slightly damp or a cleaner specifically designed for touchscreens, like Monster’s iClean.

Another great product called GermBloc offers a Smartphone Cleaning Kit that works on smartphones, tablets and devices. (And check out their full line of alcohol free sanitizers, travel kits and more at www.germbloc.com).

TLC’s How Stuff Works explains the most important tip for cleaning your cell phone is to be gentle. Swabs and cloths should be soft and lint-free. Cleansers should be pure and mild. And unless it’s absolutely necessary, don’t open up the case. Not only will you void your warranty on some models, but you’re likely to cause more problems than you solve.

As far as the touchscreen, TLC has a list of “don’ts”…

  • Don’t use Windex or any other glass cleaner with ammonia. The harsh chemicals will damage an LCD display over time.
  • Don’t use a paper towel – not even a wet one — because the rough fibers can scratch the display surface. Use a microfiber cloth like the one that came with your glasses.
  • Don’t spray anything directly on your device. Water and electronics don’t mix. Lightly moisten a cloth and wipe it down

TLC explains there are plenty of disposable wipes on the market designed to both clean and disinfect cell phone surfaces. But if you want to save money, simply moisten a cloth with a prepared mix of 60 percent water and 40 percent isopropyl alcohol, available at any drug store. Isopropyl alcohol evaporates quickly as it disinfects, ensuring that no moisture seeps into your phone’s circuitry.

cyberclean goo helps clean smartphone keypadsTo clean out crumbs or debris in crevices, a moistened microfiber cloth or Q-tip might do the trick, but again, check your phone manual first so you don’t void your warranty.

Another cool product to clean and disinfect your phone (and other items) is Cyber Clean® – a gloopy substance that is safe to use on many electronic devices. Cyber Clean Home & Office is a natural, biodegradable cleaning compound that is proven to eliminate more than 99 percent of germs commonly found on different surfaces.  Thanks to its unique membrane system, dirt and bacteria are locked inside the compound. It’s easy to use and leaves no residues, which makes it perfect for cleaning electronics such as phones and intercoms, stereo equipment, computers and keyboards, as well as gaming equipment and controls.

And one of the safest and coolest tools is a UV disinfectant wand because its light rays kill germs without touching the phone. The UV-C light wand says it kills up to 99.9% of germs and comes in handy for all types of handheld devices, ear buds, keyboards, remotes and many other gadgets and household items where germs can thrive.

uv wand sanitizes cell phones and other devices

UV wands can range in price from $30 – $100 or more and come in all shapes and sizes – even travel size (although we’re not sure what TSA would think about it..?!)

Bottom line … there are many different ways to clean the cooties off your handheld devices and please feel free to share your tips or tricks in the comments.

p.s. If you are an frequent user of Apple store devices, just think about how many nasty things are thriving on their touchscreens. Ick.

Stay safe and have a great week! j & B


Turning body heat into clean energy

March 25, 2013

Tegwear body heat into energyDid you know … someday the heat that YOU produce might power your personal electronics..?!

Spectrum reports Perpetua Power’s TEGwear Technology is developing a chip that converts body heat into electric energy .

“We absorb the heat from your body, and that heat is funneled through a thermoelectric generator that converts it into electric power,” says Perpetua Power Vice President Jerry Wiant. The result: a single, square-inch TEGwear chip generates enough power (up to 3 volts) to run anything from the accelerometer in your pedometer to the wireless headset for your smartphone.

The physics behind TEGwear is basic: Your body is always generating heat, even when you are asleep. And heat, regardless of the source, excites electrons. The flow of electrons, in turn, generates electricity. The tricky part is harnessing enough electricity to power a small device. Wiant says TEGwear will do just that, as long as the chip is either touching your skin or separated from it by only a thin layer of clothing.

TEGwear-powered devices are still in development and won’t hit the market until 2014. But this clean technology has many potential applications, from mobile health to national security.

The company demo’d the device on a new Swatch Touch watch at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas a few months ago. In addition, they have a grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a prototype wristband to track Alzheimer’s patients as well as funding from Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Division to power wearable devices used for surveillance operations.

turning body heat into clean energyThey have also partnered with several private companies to develop body-powered smartphone accessories (like headsets), health-monitoring devices (such as wearable heart-rate monitors), and military applications (like monitoring a soldier’s vital signs and location while on a combat mission).

Sounds kinda Matrix-ish … with very cool potentials for the preparedness industry.

Sources: Government Technology, io9.com, Fastcoexist


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