A lot of times, we go through our days oblivious to the potential dangers our everyday items pose to our health and safety. Let’s take your mothballs for example; you probably had no idea that some of them contain naphthalene, a chemical that causes nausea, fever, diarrhea and, in serious cases, death if ingested. All it takes for this to happen is for a curious child to put a mothball in his mouth, swallow it and voila, you’re all on way to the ER. Incidents like this happen often and mothballs aren’t the only household products with the potential to cause harm. Knowing how to safely store dangerous chemicals at home, however, will help you eliminate these risks. Thankfully, we’ll be dealing with that in this post. Let’s start by quickly identifying some of these products.
Common household products with dangerous chemicals
Ideally, when used and stored according to instructions, the chances of being harmed by these products are greatly reduced. However, situations are not always ideal and accidents happen. The harmful effects of these chemicals depend, to a large extent, on the quantity (dose) of the chemical swallowed or inhaled and contact time. So while it’s good to read and follow product instructions, knowing these products and the risks they pose is also important. Below is a list of some of these products and how their dangerous chemicals can affect you and your family.
Toilet Bowl Cleaners:
These are often made of acidic compounds – like sodium hypochlorite – that are poisonous if ingested, inhaled or come in contact with the skin. They almost always come with pleasant fragrances and colorful packaging which make them attractive to children and pets. Adults are also at risk and Beryl, a media and communications consultant, knows this only too well. She shared her scary and disconcerting chlorine gas poisoning experience from mixing a toilet bowl cleaner with bleach in a Facebook post.
This is a corrosive cleaner that can cause irritation to the eyes, throat, nose and skin. It can also lead to prolonged nausea, vomiting and esophageal injury if ingested.
N.B it’s never advisable to mix bleach and cleaning products containing ammonia or chlorine. Such mixtures cause fumes which are harmful to the respiratory system to be released.
There’s practically no house without batteries in them. Whether they’re AA, button or wet-cell batteries, these energy storage devices are a dime a dozen. In spite of their commonplace nature, batteries are a potential source of danger in your home. They’re corrosive and can burn skin, eyes and even clothing if they leak their acid on any of these surfaces. Young children have been treated in hospitals for swallowing button batteries. Batteries can also constitute fire and electrical hazards if they’re not properly stored, used or disposed of.
Laundry and dishwasher detergents
These can cause a number of bad reactions if swallowed. Reactions like vomiting, shock, convulsion and coma have been associated with the ingestion of cationic detergents used for laundry. The phosphate in automatic dishwashing detergents can cause burns and irritations on the skin. Non-ionic and hand washing detergents are milder than their cationic and automatic wash counterparts. A person can also develop asthma from exposure to large quantities of detergent.
These are generally safe when they’re used as directed. If they’re applied directly to the skin, some of them are strong enough to cause irritations and burns to the contact area.
Insecticides and pesticides
Human exposure to these products can result in acute or chronic toxicity which can be lethal. Some of the symptoms of acute toxicity from pesticides include irritation of the eyes, skin and/or respiratory tract, allergic sensitization, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Parkinson’s disease, asthma and cancer are some of the chronic effects of exposure to pesticides.
Other household products with dangerous chemicals include:
- Air fresheners
- Rodenticides (rat killers)
- Furniture polish and cleaners
- Chloride tablets for swimming pools
- Car oil
- Latex and oil-based paints
Storing dangerous chemicals at home
When putting away dangerous chemicals, take note of the following tips:
- Store all dangerous chemicals away from the reach of children.
- Lock up batteries if they aren’t in use.
- Keep laundry and dishwashing detergents in locked cabinets, away from the curious fingers of little kids.
- Store flammable liquids away from a heat source
- Don’t pour these chemicals into unlabeled containers or containers that are usually used to store edibles.
- You can repackage these chemicals into containers that are unattractive to children.
- Store and use chemicals that emit fumes (e.g. latex paints, insecticides, bleach and other cleaners) in well-ventilated areas.
- Don’t not store chemicals that react badly together or near each other e.g. bleach and toilet bowl cleaner.
- Check the shelves for firmness before placing chemicals on them. Do not overload the shelves.
When we’re talking about how to safely store dangerous chemicals at home, the importance of paying attention to labels and instruction cannot be overlooked. As you shop, read through the labels. Check for warning labels like:
“DANGER” which means that the chemical is fatal if swallowed. Ingesting as little as a small taste to teaspoon of it may cause death in an average-sized adult.
“WARNING” means the chemical can cause harm if swallowed. Ingesting a teaspoon to 29 milliliters of it may cause death in an average-sized adult.
“CAUTION” means the chemical can cause harm if swallowed. Ingesting 29 to 473 milliliters of it may cause death in an average-sized adult.