How to Handle Household Chemicals Safely
Our day-to-day life involves different activities, especially at the homestead. Some of these activities may involve using chemical substances. Potentially hazardous chemicals are inevitable in our homes. Though we use them for various reasons, if they are not safely stored or handled, these substances could be the reason for mild to significant and even more severe health issues in our homes.
What are some of these household chemicals that you use daily in your home? Perhaps, consider taking a walk in the rooms of your house. Certainly, you'll discover some substances that you knowingly or unknowingly use. Have you ever thought of the health risks they pose? Don't forget that most of these chemicals you use for your home errands are reasonably safe when you follow the manufacturer's safety instructions. When we follow the guidelines strictly, the level at which a given chemical product could cause harm is regulated. So always remember to "read the guidelines carefully before use."
Chemical hazards in your house
Common household chemicals remind us of the direct effects all market chemical substances directly have on our lives. Mainly, we apply these chemicals to improve our living standards by efficiently cleaning surfaces, removing greases, and even sanitizing surfaces. That said, many helpful chemicals are also hazardous. Familiarize yourself with the chemicals, the risks they cause to humans and the environment, and how to prevent yourself from harm.
Pesticide is a term that covers a variety of pest control chemicals. It includes insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, and to some extent, repellants. They are toxic chemicals that we use daily in our homes; hence they contaminate us directly with poison. Chemical research on some vegetable samples indicates that the chemical quantity in most of the green foods consumed is above the recommended limits. Also, the studies found out that this food toxic chemical contamination results from failed monitoring systems and guidelines.
Paints and solvents
Paints are coatings applied on surfaces in their liquid form. Their primary purpose is to protect the surfaces from dumbness, direct sunlight, and other weather-caused effects. At home, paints bring elegancy as well as facilitating surface cleaning. On the other hand, solvents are liquids or even gases that, when dissolved, can remove grease, oil, and paint pigments. Unfortunately, when these organic solvents are used in our homes, they expose us to several health risks, with symptoms such as headache or drowsiness being experienced. At extreme, they cause respiratory failures and even fainting. Additionally, harmful effects of paints and solvents include liver and kidney failures and also affect the skin.
Most conventional household cleaners contain ingredients that can cause health problems. A significant number of them contain carcinogenic compounds too. While these products are common, the intensity of their exposure to your body can cause health problems. Some of the harmful substances found in household cleaners include the following.
- Sodium hypochlorite: When mixed with acids like vinegar, it releases chloramine gas responsible for respiratory problems like asthma.
- Petroleum distillates: Majorly found on metal polishes. The chemicals cause eye and lung irritation, and when you get exposed to them for long, they can damage your nervous system and even the skin.
- Phenol and cresol: It's a chemical mostly present in disinfectants. When ingested, it causes diarrhea, dizziness and can damage the liver and the kidney.
- Hydrochloric acid: it is a compound evident in lavatory cleaners. It causes a burn to the skin and can lead to blindness when it comes into contact with the eyes. Also, it causes a stomach burn when swallowed.
Polishes and waxes
There is a floor wax, shoe, nail polish, metal polish chemicals, and polishes for furniture in this category. All these substances are used at home for various reasons. The polishes and waxes used are causal agents of synthetic scents. They are also extracted from crude oil, containing benzene derivatives, toluene, and other chemical reactants suspected to cause cancer, congenital disabilities, and damage to the central nervous system, as well as allergic health problems.
Automotive products are a category of health hazards that many seem to ignore. Yet, their effects on the environment and human health are something to raise eyebrows. For example, when a car leaks oil and it gets in contact with groundwater, polluting water resources, they affect foliage and wildlife at large. In addition, car coolants contain ethylene glycol, a compound that can affect the nervous system of both humans and wildlife.
There are substances we use in our homes, but they are not regarded or categorized as toxic. Instead, they are classified as miscellaneous and include fluorescent light bulbs, batteries, and mercury thermometers. For instance, fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury in their glass tubing and are harmless as long as they are sealed. However, if the bulb break, the mercury could be released in its vapor form and can cause long-term health problems. Therefore, EPA recommends all to handle bulbs with care and gives measures to follow in cleaning up in case of a broken bulb.
Incidents of Chemical Accidents in American Homes
Chemicals are essential in our daily lives and as part of our environment. Even when we don't have a plan for them, we still utilize chemicals daily. We use them to clean our bodies and floors. Our plants grow better with chemicals, and these compounds also service cars. Chemicals make our lives efficient, healthier, and simple.
Under certain conditions, chemical compounds turn harmful, affecting your health negatively. While most chemicals are safe when used as prescribed or in small quantities, they can cause adverse health effects when applied in larger quantities. Therefore it’s good to be prepared and align yourself with some chemical emergency response tactics. There are three primary ways that we are exposed to chemicals.
- Through inhalation
- Touching the chemical.
Annually, thousands of tons of chemicals are manufactured and also shipped into American society. As the use of chemicals goes up, the rates of chemical-related cases also shoot. There are several incidences of chemical accidents in America as categorized by the CDC.
Sodium hypochlorite reaction with acids
When sodium hypochlorite gets into contact with a weak acid, it reacts to form fatal chlorine gas. The same gas causes skin and lungs irritation. In small quantities, chlorine gas causes coughing, eye and mouth irritation. Prolonged exposure to chlorine can be fatal.
Bleach mixing with Ammonia
As we've seen, chlorine gas (chlorine bleach) is a dangerous gas, so you should never mix it with Ammonia. After the reaction, the two chemicals produce chloramine or hydrazine vapor which is deadly. Chloramine vapor causes eye and respiratory tract irritation and also damages internal body organs. Also, hydrazine is a toxic and explosive vapor that can lead to a painful death.
The reaction of hydrogen peroxide and dilute acid
When cleaning stained surfaces at home, you may end up mixing vinegar with hydrogen peroxide. The response will offer you a more robust solution but also form peracetic acid. Unfortunately, peracetic acid is a corrosive compound that causes burns and leads to eye and respiratory system irritation. Don't forget its ability to corrode metallic surfaces.
Alternative for Hazardous Chemicals
So much is on the table as chemical alternatives, but total elimination tops. If the American population purchases less or no chemicals for household activities, the message will reach the manufacturer. On the other hand, the vegetable garden and house floor can still flourish without chemicals. So how do we do away with hazardous chemicals?
As the saying goes, "prevention is worth more than cure." One of the best methods to curb the problems caused by dangerous chemicals is ensuring that the issues don't occur. Don't wait for spots in the kitchen to dry up and be permanent. Ensure you pour baking soda and warm water immediately—control flies, spiders, and other insects by ensuring that the house is clean. Some agricultural practices like growing selected crops in the lawn are resistant to diseases, pests, and weeds.
Apply Alternative methods
Some problems in your household require only physical actions for eradication. What are some physical alternatives for some chemical methods?
- Paints - water-based paints are safer compared to oil-based paints and aerosol spray paint. Also, they are easy to clean and dispose of securely. In case you've used a paint thinner, save the leftover for another day.
- Pesticides - currently in the market, there are numerous safer alternatives for commercial chemicals. For example, you can think of biological treatments like bacillus Therengensis on crops like cabbage to control cabbage worms.
- Household Cleaners- most household jobs and cleaning are today attended to with few fundamental ingredients. However, the choices generated have served society safely for decades. With the required components such as baking soda, vegetable oil, and vinegar, you can manufacture safer cleaning products at your place.
Use only safe products.
Sometimes, the market won’t serve you with appropriate alternatives. In such a case, select the less hazardous and safe chemicals to apply. By doing this, you will reduce issues caused by dangerous waste in the environment.
How to Avoid Chemical Injuries
The home is always the place we get cover from external stress. Mostly, we think that home is calm and safe, but populations are not yet informed of the risks posed by the toxic chemicals found in our homes, such as laundry detergents, paints, and pesticides. Understanding how to handle household chemicals is the first step to reduce their injury.
- Store household chemicals out of the reach of children
- Store chemical products in the manufacturer’s containers and never remove the stickers and labels. Corroded containers must be re-labeled.
- Hazardous chemicals must never be kept in food containers.
- Household chemicals should never mix with other reactive products. For example, chemicals such as chlorine and Ammonia are highly reactive and explosive.
- You should never apply Hair spray, cleaning agents, paint, and pesticides near open flames.
- Clean spilled chemicals once they pour. After cleaning, let the fumes from the rags evaporate outdoors. After that, wrap them with a newspaper, and put them in a plastic bag before disposing.
- Trash the hazardous waste safely. Also, don't forget to save the national poison control emergency phone number.
How to Protect Your Family from Hazardous Chemicals
There are several household chemicals today used for both indoors and outdoors purposes. Mostly, chemicals used for outdoor events are agri-chemicals. They include solvents, fuels, herbicides, and pesticides. While they all make our work efficient, chemicals are sometimes risky to human and animal life. Therefore, protecting yourself and your family members from the adverse effects of chemicals is a vital move.
- Keep pesticides and herbicides far from children. When you have depleted them, ensure that their containers are disposed of properly or collected for recycling.
- Ensure that your children are safe from chemical poisoning. In case of a problem, call 911 for assistance or check the label for first aid guidelines.
- Expose your children to an open environment. For example, ensure your kids are involved in outdoor activities, limit smoke pollution in the environment, etc.
- At all costs, limit lead poisoning in your home. Here, you can have your kids tested for lead poisoning and emphasize washing hands before food and washing the toys before gaming.
- Ensure your kids are free from CO poisoning. In this case, avoid running cars while in the garage and also install CO sensors and alarms.
- Don’t allow your kids to play with contaminated water
- Sun-shield, your children
With the rising number of the elderly living independently, it’s essential to ensure they are safe at their residential homes. Unfortunately, poisoning is among the predominant accidents involving seniors. If you are elderly living alone or care for an older person, here is how to ensure they are safe from chemical risks.
- Avoid heating the room with a stove or grill since they emit carbon monoxide.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors in bedrooms
- Keep all chemicals and medicines in their original containers
- Ensure all chemicals and medicine containers are well labeled
- Some cleaning chemicals are flammable and can cause severe burns.
First Aid Response to Chemical Emergencies
A chemical emergency happens when a dangerous chemical with the potential to harm life is ingested. When this happens:
- Stop the chemical source. Keep off the victim from the contact of the chemical.
- Clear the lungs- ensure that the victim gets access to fresh air.
- Flush the eyes with clean water. As you do this, ensure the unaffected eye is not contaminated.
- Clean the affected skin part with fresh water
- When the problem persists, call a healthcare provider or 911
How to Dispose Chemical Wastes
The potential environmental and health risks associated with your household hazardous wastes (HHW) can be avoided by carefully monitoring the use, storage, and disposal of products that contain potentially hazardous substances. Improperly disposing of HHW includes pouring them down drains or on ground surfaces as well as throwing them out in regular trash cans.
Get rid of household chemical wastes appropriately, preferably in plastic bottles. Store the waste by compatibility, not alphabetically.
Risk to the environment
While millions of people use household chemicals, the environmental impacts of the ingredients are detrimental. Continuous application of even small quantities of these chemicals poses a long-term health risk to animals, plants, and humans.
- For instance, laundry chemicals contain phosphates which pollute water bodies. When phosphate finds its way into water catchments, it triggers algae growth, limiting oxygen supply, resulting in the death of aquatic life.
- Several household chemicals contain compounds that cause skin irritation or severe health issues when ingested. In addition, some substances are linked to conditions like asthma and cancer.
- Pesticides deplete the ozone layer when they are applied to crops.
Household chemicals are inventible in our environment. For decades, we've effectively utilized them and attained the results of the application. But, on the other hand, these chemicals pose adverse health effects to our lives. Thinking of using alternatives is what will give a long-lasting remedy and ensure we live in safe environments. If you have these chemicals in your place, ensure the elderly and children are not exposed to the risks. Also, learn the best first aid techniques as well as healthy disposal measures.
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