Emergency Preparedness Essentials


Household Chemical Emergencies

Cleaning and other products containing toxic chemicals are found in all homes. Accidents resulting from exposure to these chemicals rarely occur; however, it is still important to properly handle and dispose of these products to eliminate health and environmental risks.

What to Do Before a Household Chemical Emergency Occurs

Safely store and use household chemicals by following these tips:
  • Only purchase chemicals that will be used in the immediate future. Excess chemicals can be donated to non-profit organizations, hazardous-waste disposal companies, family and friends, and government agencies. For example, greenhouses are always in need of surplus pesticide. Many communities sponsor waste exchanges. These programs are designed to distribute surplus household chemicals to those needing them to prevent environmental or health hazards resulting from improper storage.
  • Do not remove product labels and never store chemicals in new containers, unless the original container is leaking or corroded. Repackage corroded containers with the original label.
  • Do not store toxic chemicals in containers used to store food.
  • Do not mix toxic household chemicals since certain compounds combust when combined. For example, ammonia and chlorine bleach can combust when mixed together.
  • Read labels for manufacture instructions about the safe use and storage of chemicals.
  • Do not smoke while handling cleaning and other chemicals.
  • Do not use pesticides, paint, flammable cleaning products, or hair spray while smoking, sitting near a chemical, or cooking. Particles from these chemicals can ignite quickly.
  • Immediately clean household chemical spills. Wear gloves and goggles while cleaning spills. Throw away rags used to clean spills or let fumes saturated in them evaporate outside. Properly dispose of rags used to clean flammable chemicals.
  • Always follow manufacturer and federal and local environmental protection agency guidelines when disposing of chemicals. If located in your community, dispose of chemicals with a solid and hazardous waste collection program. Local environmental protection agencies can provide information about these programs.
  • Ensure local phone numbers for poison control agencies are programmed into your cell phone or posted near home landlines. The national poison control center can be reached at (800) 222-1222.

What to Do During a Household Chemical Emergency

Evacuate your home immediately if flammable or combustible chemicals are involved. If imminent danger is present, do not collect personal items. Contact 911 or the fire department with a mobile phone or from a neighbor’s house.
  • Remain a safe distance upwind from the house to avoid inhaling dangerous fumes.
  • Identify and react immediately to poisoning symptoms, which include:
  • Breathing problems
  • Respiratory tract, throat, skin, and eye irritation
  • Skin color alterations
  • Blurry vision or excessive headaches
  • Poor coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Cramping
  • If you’ve been exposed to toxic chemicals or have a friend or family member exhibiting symptoms, notify the national poison control center by calling 1 (800) 222-1222. When speaking to representatives, inform them of the products you or other individuals have been exposed too.
  • After calling 911 or a poison control center, listen carefully to the instructions provided. Poison control representatives and other emergency responders can often provide advice not located on product labels. Do not ingest or administer oral medication unless instructed by a doctor or other medical specialist.

What to Do After a Household Chemical Emergency

  • Remove and dispose of contaminated clothing. Certain chemicals cannot be removed after washing.

Checking Your Home

Numerous hazardous materials are located within your house. Identify and locate these materials. Identify hazardous materials by reviewing the labels on all household cleaning products and other chemicals you commonly use. Review labels for proper usage, storage, and disposal guidelines.

Do not store chemicals in areas that small children frequent. Common cleaning and everyday products, such as bathroom cleaners, deodorant, kitchen cleaners, and hair spray contain hazardous chemicals.

Common Hazardous Household Items to Watch Out For

  • Tub, tile and toilet cleaners
  • Drain cleaners
  • Polishes and wood cleaners
  • Oven cleaners
  • Laundry bleach
  • Pool/spa chemicals
    Indoor Pesticides
  • Flea repellents
  • Bug sprays
  • Housepland Insecticides
  • Plant fertilizers
  • Moth balls
  • Rodent baits and poisons
    Painting Supplies
  • Glues and Adhesives
  • Enamel- and Oil-based paints
  • Finishes, stains and strippers
  • Turpentine and paint thinner
  • Other Solvents
    Garden Products
  • Insecticides
  • Fungicides
  • Herbicides
  • Fertilizers
  • Oils, additives and antifreeze
  • Transmission and brake fluid
  • Air conditioning refrigerants
  • Starter Fluids
  • Automotive cleaners
  • Automotive batteries
    Flammable Items
  • Kerosene
  • Heating oil
  • Gasoline/Diesel fuel
  • Lighter fluid
  • Propane tanks
Other household items that should be stored in a safe place include thermometers (mercury thermostats), concrete sealers, batteries and fluorescent light bulbs.

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