You and your family are surrounded by material that can cause illness, injury, or death, and most of you are ignoring it.
Do we have your attention? Good!
When most citizens enter into conversations about hazardous materials in the community, the mental image associated with the discussion is that of industry. There is a ton of concern about chemical spills at plants, businesses, or as a result of transportation accidents. While we will not downplay the hazards associated with materials that daily move through and are stored in our community, we would like to focus your attention on materials you can do something about, those found in your home.
When was the last time you looked in closets, under the sink, or in the garage at the accumulation of "stuff" there? By "stuff" we mean cleaning solvents, paint, paint thinner, adhesives, chlorine based cleaners, chemical drain openers, ammonia, pesticides, etc. etc. This is a list that in most homes will go on and on. What do you have? Go look. If you are like most people, you have an accumulation that has grown with years of being at the same residence.
But merely looking at and inventorying your "stuff" is not enough. Was does the label say the chemical is capable of? Does the substance burn skin, cause eye irritation, respiratory problems, produce heat or flame? Is the substance sweat tasting but toxic, like antifreeze? When in contact with another substance, will the chemical reaction be a fire, explosion, or toxic gas, such as when ammonia and chlorine mix? Worse yet, what about that container on the shelf that does not have a label!
Look at how you store items that can potentially harm you or your family. Is your chlorine cleaner stored next to the ammonia under the kitchen sink? If these two items mix you have the recipe for chlorine gas, a real problem. Where is your powered drain opener? If you are like a lot of folks, the can is under the sink, near the drain trap, next to the potatoes and onions. Knowing what the chemical reaction is when this substance comes into contact with water, does that make sense?
What can you do to protect yourself and your family? Start by knowing what and where you are storing your hazardous materials. Know what the warning labels say. Keep materials that react violently when mixed away from each other. Please keep all materials out of the reach of young children. Get rid of excess and/or items that have out-lived their usefulness. In Cumberland County, you can dispose of household hazardous wastes at the Household Hazardous Waste Facility on Wilkes Road, Saturdays between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
Remember, safety at home is a personal responsibility. Take care of yourself and your loved ones.