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By Phil Molé

How time flies! It was summer the last time we did an installment of our “Frontline Stories” blog, and now it’s late fall — time to focus on some of the chemical exposure risks common during this time of the year, during late fall up until the Thanksgiving holiday. We’ll review the types of chemical exposure that can happen, and share how better access to emergency response information can help no matter where you are in the chemical supply chain.

DO NOT Put That in Your Pipe and Smoke It: Lawn Care Product Safety

Those of us in the northern hemisphere are currently in fall, heading into winter, while those of us in the southern hemisphere are in spring, heading into summer.  This means that some of us are putting our lawncare and garden products into the shed for the year, while others are just pulling them out for the season’s use.

The fact that we buy these products in retail stores shouldn’t distract us from the fact they contain chemicals, and represent a potential for exposure for ourselves, our family members or our pets.

Unfortunately, it’s not a surprise that our ERS call center representatives get a large number of calls related to lawn care product exposures during this time of the year. Here’s a breakdown of some that we’ve received:

  • A caller reported that they’d had an inhalation exposure to a commercial insecticide made for lawn application. The caller reported feeling shaky and having a slight headache.
  • Similarly, a caller reported that the family dog had been exposed to a commercial insecticide that had been applied to the lawn. As a result of the exposure, the dog was showing signs of distress, such as not eating and visibly shaking.
  • A caller reported that her spouse was suffering from a rash on his hands and entire upper body after using a commercially sold caterpillar control product.
  • A caller stated that she had received skin and inhalation exposure to a commercially sold insecticide powder, and was now experiencing swelling in her fingers and throat.
  • In one of the more unusual incidents, a caller reported that her spouse was experiencing symptoms of a mild upset stomach after smoking a commercially sold insecticide in his pipe. The report of the call does not provide details of how the insecticide got into the pipe, and whether it was a deliberate choice or an accident.

Getting Pest Control Exposures Under Control

Many people in dry, hot states like Arizona and New Mexico use commercially sold pest control products to get biting or stinging pests like spiders and scorpions under control in order to enjoy their time spent outdoors. Those of us who live in areas where the weather is getting colder right now, like the Midwest and Northeastern United States, also know that this time of the year is a time to worry about bigger pests, like rats and mice, trying to find a warm place for the winter in our garages, sheds and homes.  That means there’s an uptick in the use of pest control products, and it’s important not to forget they carry risks for us humans and our pets( the animals we actually want in our homes).

Here are a couple of characteristic incidents:

  • A caller reported that her 2-year old son had sprayed a commercial spider and scorpion killing product into his eyes.
  • A caller reported that his dog may have ingested some of a commercially sold rat and mouse poison — although he wasn’t completely sure if dog had actually ingested it and the dog didn’t currently appear to have any exposure symptoms.

Heating Cans and Safety

Of course, as we can already tell by looking at the Santa and snowmen merchandise for sale at the local stores and the advertisements we’re hearing on the radio, the holidays are coming. That means get-togethers with family and friends, and might mean quite a bit of food for our celebrations, especially for holidays like Thanksgiving in the United States. And, many of us need a way to keep our hot foods hot during the festivities, which is why “canned heat” product usage, like burners kept under buffet platters, will be going up over the coming weeks.

Here are a couple of reports related to these kinds of exposures:

  • A caller reported that while preparing to use a canned heat product, she accidentally dropped the can on the counter, resulting in the liquid splashing upward into her eyes. The liquid in these cans often contains 50-100% ethanol, which is classified as a flammable liquid and an eye irritant.
  • A separate caller using a similar heating product reported that she got some of the liquid into her eye. This product contained methanol gel, which is classified as acutely toxic, a flammable liquid and an eye irritant. The caller reported a burning sensation in her eyes.

In all of the examples of calls discussed in this article, our representatives provided first aid and health hazard information based on the SDS, and provided poison control center numbers where needed.

Takeaways About Chemical Safety for Common Retail Products

We can see from these examples that while many of us may be trying to enjoy time with our families and prepare for the coming holiday season, we can’t afford to lose awareness of the chemical products we might be using. Most often , these exposures won’t cause serious health problems, but they can still be dangerous, and make anxious times out of what should be joyful gatherings with friends and family.

“This is a time of the year when we get a lot more of these kinds of incident calls,” says Juli Harvey, Manager of ERS Operations at VelocityEHS. “Exposures can happen in many different ways and with many kinds of products. We give the callers the support they need, like the first aid and symptoms of exposure info from the SDS, and numbers for poison control centers in case they need them.”

Remember, chemicals are everywhere, so we need to be aware at all times of the products we’re using, no matter where or when we’re using them. Emergency response depends on responsibilities throughout the chemical supply chain. Manufacturers of chemicals have a responsibility to provide emergency contact information in Section 1 of the SDSs for their products, and obviously the ability of end-users to access and use that information helps them better protect their employees.

Looking for More Information?

If you’d like more information about how emergency response services can provide fast access to chemical hazard information when you most need it, please feel free to check out our on-demand webinar “Frontline Stories”: True Stories About the Ways Emergency Response Services Help Users Throughout the Chemical Supply Chain.”

The Emergency Response Information You Need, When You Need It

The great thing about a service like VelocityEHS ERS is that you can benefit from the expertise of our professionals no matter who you are and where you’re at in the supply chain. If you’re the manufacturer of a product, you can turn to us for support and get our toll-free number in Section 1 of your product SDSs, and on your labels and packaging so we can help field your customers’ medical exposure support and SDS inquires. If you’re a transporter, you can get instant information about the hazards of those chemicals, including instructions on response in the event of damaged packaged or released product. And if you’re an end user, we give you on-the-spot chemical exposure support to prevent serious injuries, and even save lives in the event of a chemical emergency, putting trained specialists with more than 70 years of combined emergency call center experience at the fingertips of you and your workers. This information is available to you in addition to and regardless of what information your suppliers may have provided in their SDSs, so you get an extra layer of protection for your workers.

Backed by our industry-leading database, your employees — global or domestic — also get unlimited, 24/7 email or fax access to your company’s inventory of SDSs through a convenient hotline. This not only helps protect your employees, but also helps ensure compliance with SDS right-to-know, accessibility and library back-up requirements of global hazard communication regulations.

And that’s something to be thankful for!

As always, please feel free to contact us anytime to learn how VelocityEHS ERS can help keep you, your workers, and your customers safe.