Make a habit of reading the warnings and instructions on the product packaging.

LAST week, I wrote about how household hazards could be dan¬gerously mistaken for something harmless because of their shape, colour and smell.

There’s much to be said about this topic because many household hazards are things we regularly use in the house, namely all types of cleaners, solvents, oils and insecticides.

Even medicines, soaps, perfumes, nail polish and nail polish remover, certain hair products for dyeing, perming, styling and removers, along with batteries are considered dangerous and poisonous.

All these items are readily available and easily purchased. You can go to most shops for them. When you bring them home, what do you do with them? More importantly, where do you keep them?

There are too many items to be mentioned individually, but bear in mind that even daily and ordinary things that we use can be hazardous in the wrong hands.

If you have children, pets and anyone who’s overly curi¬ous, or are mentally and phys¬ically-challenged in the house, you must keep many of these items not just out of sight and out of reach, but also under lock and key.

We should develop some safe habits like putting back the cap or cover of bot-tles/containers we’re working with. If you’re working with things like cleaners, solvents or glue, replace the cap if you must leave the room in the middle of a task. Then store them away or take them with you. Never leave chemical products unattended.

Remember to never eat, drink or smoke while using chemicals. If certain chemicals require the use of hot water, be extremely careful as there’s a risk of explosion.

UNDERSTANDING WARNINGS AND INSTRUCTIONS

Make a habit of reading the warnings on the product packaging even though you’ve been using the item for years.

Sometimes the product has been “improved” with new things added. Man¬ufacturers have put in much time and research into developing the product. So the warnings are there for a good reason. Understand the instructions, read their safety directions, specifications on how to store them as well as first aid instructions.

Some may tell you to wash your hands with soap and water after using the product, and what to do in case of ingestion or if it comes into contact with your eyes.

Here are some key words that you’d always see on such items, and generally what they mean:

• Corrosive — it eats or wears away at many materials and is harmful to skin

• Flammable — easily ignited and catches fire

• Reactive — can cause an explosion or produce deadly vapours

• Toxic — poisonous to humans and animals

There are many home hacks and tips on the Internet about how you can make your own cleaning agents and so on. Do be careful about doing this even though some of them are ingredients we use for cooking. They are chemicals even if they come from natural sources. As a rule, two or more chemicals together may react violently, producing toxins and fumes that can harm you.

Some can bubble and splash onto your hands, arms and face and could damage your eyes. So before you embark on such experiments, ensure you take precautionary measures like wearing rubber gloves and safety glasses. I know this sounds funny but there’s nothing to laugh about when you or your loved one gets hurt. Know what to do in case of emergency.

SAFETY FIRST

When working with these chemicals, be sure to be in a room that’s well ventilated and have access to soap and water so that you can quickly wash any splashes and accidents. When you’re storing these hazardous items, it’s important to know their prop¬erties so that you know where you should keep them.

For example, you wouldn’t want to keep your bleaches and soaps next to your fresh produce like potatoes, onions and rice. Nor should you put your pots and pans near these heavy-duty cleaners.

Also, never put hazardous and poison¬ous fluids or items in food or beverage containers like empty soft drink bottles, biscuit tins or cookie jars. This is the one time when re-using and re-cycling may not be a good idea. Even if you labelled it, the words wouldn’t mean anything to those who can’t read or understand it.

Key things to look out for would be the recommended storage temperatures and following all safety precautions on the con¬tainers. Don’t put them near heat sources. Avoid inhaling the vapours. If you can smell it, quickly ventilate the room.

Often enough, you don’t finish the entire product. So you leave it in your storeroom only to find that there’s corrosion around the cap. Do you throw it away? How do you dispose it? One thing for sure is never to pour it into your sink or toilet bowl, nor should it be dumped into your rubbish bin. There are companies that would help dis¬pose your chemicals. You can check the Internet for their contact numbers.

Putri JuneitaJjohari volunteers for the special children society of Ampang. You can reach her at juneitajohari@yahoo.com

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