Extension Housing Specialist
Publication Number: HE-368-1
Last Electronic Revision: March 1996 (JWM)
Collectively, these materials can contami- nate our drinking water if they are not stored carefully and disposed of properly. In addi- tion to poisoning our water, inappropriate use and disposal of hazardous household products can cause injuries, poisoning and air pollution.
A statement telling you how to avoid the hazard must appear with safe use instructions. Examples might be KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN or USE IN A WELL-VENTILATED AREA.
As a consumer you should make it a habit to read hazardous product labels. These labels must include the following information:
Regulations concerning pesticides are diffierent. On pesticides, the word "warning" means that the product is moderately toxic. This means thatone teaspoon toone ounce can kill an average adult. The word "caution" means that the product is slightly toxic. It would take over one ounce to kill an average adult.
There are other concerns about labels, as well. Some products contain ingredients that have not been of ficially recognized by the federal government as hazardous but still are cause for concern. "Inert" ingredients are chemicals added as "carriers" for the active ingredients in cleaners and pesticides. Only the percentage of inert ingredients are required on the label, not their identity. Some inert ingredients are hazardous.
There is no standardized list of chemical names. Many chemicals have numerous trade and/or scientific names. This makes it hard for you to compare products. Antidotes listed on the label may be incomplete, out-of-date, or even dangerously wrong. According to a 1984 report by the National Academy of Sciences, less than 2 percent of all new and existing chemicals have been tested sufficiently to allow a complete health hazard assessment.
Also, many labels do not tell you how to dispose of a product safely.
The use of the term "non-toxic" is for advertising only. It has no regulatory definition by the federal government.
It is very important that you know as much as possible about products before you use them so that you can adequately protect yourself. If a product label does not provide ingredients or adequate instructions on safe use, look for another product that has a more complete label.
Other hazardous products include: aerosol products, dry cell and disc or button batteries, hearing aid batteries, moth balls and flakes, shoe polish, photographic chemicals, smoke detectors and air fresheners and deodorizers.
Let's take a closer look at hazardous ingredients and their effects on people. Study the information in the following chart.
Product Type Possible Ingredients Potential Hazards Air fresheners Formaldehyde Toxic; carcinogen; irritant to eyes, nose, throat and skin; may cause nausea, and deodorizers headaches, nose bleeds, dizziness, memory loss, and shortness of breath Antifreeze Ethylene glycol Very toxic; 3 ounces can be fatal to adult; damage to cardiovascular system, blood, skin and kidneys Methanol Moderately toxic; ingestion may cause coma. respiratorv damage Bleach Sodium hypochlorite Corrosive; irritates or burns skin, eyes, respiratory tract; may cause pulmo- nary edema or vomiting and coma if ingested; contact with other chemicals may cause chlorine fumes Car Wax, Polish Petroleum distillates Associated with skin and lung cancer; irritant to skin, eyes, nose, lungs; entry into lungs may cause fatal pulmonary edema Disinfectants Sodium hypochlorite Corrosive; irritates orburns skin, eyes; may cause pulmonary edema. or vom- iting and coma if ingested Phenols Flammable; very toxic; respiratory, circulatory or cardiac damage Ammonia Vapor irritating to eyes, respiratory tract and skin; possible chronic irritation Drain Cleaner Sodium or potassium Caustic; irritant; inhibits reflexes; burns to skin, poisonous if hydroxide (Iye) swallowed due to severe tissue damage Hydrochloric acid Corrosive, irritant; damage to kidney, liver and digestive system Trichloromethane Irritant to nose and eyes; central nervous system depression, liver and kidney damage if ingested Flea Powder Carbaryl Very toxic; interferes with human nervous system; may cause skin, respiratory system, cardiovascular system damage Dichlorophene Skin irritation; may damage liver, kidney, spleen and central nervous system Chlordane and other Very slow biodegradation; accumulates in food chain; may dam- chlorinated hydrocarbons age eyes, lungs, liver, kidneys and skin Floor Cleaner/Wax Diethylene Glycol Toxic, causes central nervous system depression and kidney, liver lesions Petroleum Solvents Highly flammable; associated with skin and lung cancer, irritant to skin, eyes, nose, throat, lungs Ammonia Vapor irritation to eyes, respiratory tract and skin; possible chronic irritation Furniture Polish Petroleum distillates or Highly flammable, moderately toxic, associated with skin and Mineral spirits lung cancer, irritant to skin, eyes, nose, throat, lungs, entry into lungs may cause pulmonary edema Over Cleaner Sodium or potassium Caustic; irritant, inhibits reflexes; burns to skin, eyes; poisonous hydroxide (Iye) if swallowed due to severe tissue damage Paint Thinner Chlorinated aliphatic hydrocarbons Slow decomposition; liver and kidney damage Esters Toxicity varies with specific chemical; causes eye, nose and throat irritation and anesthesia Alcohols Volatile and flammable; eye, nose and throat irritation Chlorinated aromatic hydrocarbons Flammable; toxicity varies with specific chemical; may cause respiratory ailments Ketones Flammable; skin irritant; benzene is a carcinogen; possible liver and kidney damage Paints Aromatic hydrocarbon thinners Flammable; skin irritant; benzene is a carcinogen; possible liver and kidney damage Mineral spirits Highly flammable; skin, eye, nose, throat, lung irritant; very high air concentrations may cause unconsciousness, death Motor Oil/Gasoline Petroleum hydrocarbons (benzene) Highly flammable; associated with skin and lung cancer; irritant to skin, eyes, nose, throat, lungs; plumonary edema; benzene is a carcinogen Lead Damage to digestive, genitourinary, neuro-muscular and central nervous system; anemia and brain damage Spot Removers Perchlorethylene or Slow decomposition; liver and kidney damage; perchlorethylene trichloromethane is suspected carcinogen Ammonium hydroxide Corrosive; vapor extremely irritable to skin, eyes and respiratory passages; ingestion causes tissue burns Sodium hypochlorite Corrosive, irritates skin, eyes, respiratory tract; may cause pul- monary edema and skin burns Toilet Bowl Cleaner Sodium acid sulfate, oxalate or Corrosive; burns from skin contact or inhalation; ingestion may be hypochloric acid fatal Chlorinated phenols Flammable; very toxic; respiratory, circulatory or cardiac damage Window Cleaners Diethylene glycol Toxic; causes central nervous system depression and degenerative lesions in liver and kidneys Ammonia Vapor irritating to eyes; respiratory tract and skin; possible chronic irritation Wood Stain/Varnish Mineral spirits, gasoline Highly flammable; associated with skin and lung cancer; irritant to skin, eyes, nose, throat, lungs; entry into lungs may cause fatal pulmonary edema Benzene Flammable; carcinogen; accurnulates in fat, bone narrow, liver tissues Lead Damage to digestive genitourinary, neuro-muscular and central nerv- ous sytem; anemia and brain damage
Toxins can be ingested by eating or drinking hazard- ous substances or contaminated food and water. Ingestion is a major cause of poisoning in children 6 and under. Keep the hazardous products out of the reach of children and in a locked area.
When you are working with hazardous products, avoid putting anything in your mouth. Don't eat, don't smoke, don't drink, don't even place things that enter your mouth in the work area. When you're finished remove any contaminated clothing and wash your hands (and other exposed body parts) with soap and water. Then you can put something in your mouth.
Toxins can be inhaled. Gases, vapors, and sprays pass directly through the lungs and enter the blood. That is why good ventilation is essential. When you are working inside, use a fan to direct air away from the work area to open windows. Air conditioners do not provide sufficient ventilation since they recirculate air, even when set on "vent." Thus they do not remove contaminants. If you can smell a toxic chemical, your ventilation is not sufElcient (although some harmful chemicals have no odor). Use a mask or rcspirator to protect yourself.
Toxins can be absorbed through the skin. Hazardous products containing irritants or corrosives will injure the skin and then are absorbed. Some hazardous chemical can be absorbed without causing any damage to the skin. Wear gloves and/or pretective clothing. Your eyes also are vulnerable to injury. Many hazardous products can cause eye damage if splashed into the eye. Oven cleaners, drain cleaners, and paint thinners are just three examples.
Wear goggles when working with these products. Regular eyeglasses do not provide enough protection. Do not wear contact lenses (especially soft lenses) when working with hazardous products. The lenses absorb the vapors and then hold the irlitant against your eye. Safety goggles are inexpensive and can be purchased at hardware, automotive supply and farm equipment stores.
When you go shopping for products, your selection can be your first step toward minimizing danger. Follow these guidelines:
Use it safely . . .
It may be impossible to totally eliminate hazardous products in your home. The following guidelines will help you when using hazardous products to keep your home and environment safe.
Store it safely in your home . . .
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