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Hazardous Material Safety

Don't let the Home become a HAZMAT site!
Daily, large Incidents occur where hazardous materials responders remove oil, acid or other hazardous materials that had been spilled on freeways. Transportation routes used to move commerce and people to and from work are temporarily closed. Such incidents can affect hundreds, if not thousands of people.

The Seacliff train derailment in 1992 closed Highway 101, cutting off the main access from Ventura to Santa Barbara and forcing the evacuation of more than 300 residents of Seacliff, La Conchita, and Mussel Shores for six days. In February 1996, a five-car train carrying dangerous chemicals derailed in San Bernardino County's Cajon Pass and caught fire. About 100 patrons of two nearby gas stations, a motel and a restaurant were voluntarily evacuated.

Hazardous materials aren't restricted to the highway, local refinery or manufacturing firm. Motor oil, paint, pool chemicals and other common household products could make a home a potential site for a mini hazardous materials (hazmat) incident, particularly in an earthquake. Strong ground shaking could topple and break bottles and cans containing hazardous materials.

Use the following information to identify common household products that pose a danger and how to handle and dispose of them:

Hazardous Household Products
Hazardous products and substances are classified into four categories based on the property or properties they exhibit. Corrosive substances or vapors deteriorate or irreversibly damage body tissues with which they come in contact and erode the surface of other materials. Flammable substances are capable of burning in the air at any temperature. Toxic substances may poison, injure or be lethal when they are eaten, absorbed through the mouth and stomach, absorbed through the skin or inhaled into the lungs. Reactive substances can produce toxic vapors or explode when they react with air, water or other substances.

Corrosive Products
Abrasive cleaners, souring powders
Ammonia, bleach-based cleaners
Car batteries
Chlorine bleach
Disinfectant and oven cleaners
Drain openers and cleaners
Glass and window cleaners
Photographic and pool chemicals
Rug an upholstery cleaners
Toilet bowl cleaners

Flammable Products
Air fresheners
Coin, floor, furniture or shoe polish
Enamel or oil-based paints
Engine cleaners and degreasers
Furniture and paint strippers

Gasoline and diesel fuel
Hair spray, deodorants
Motor oil, transmission fluid
Paints and primers
Rug and upholstery cleaners
Rust paints
Solvent-based glues
Solvents for cleaning firearms
Spot removers
Stains and varnishes
Wood preservatives

Toxic Products
Artist and model paints
Car wax containing solvents
Chemical fertilizers

Drug, medicines and pharmaceuticals
Fungicides, herbicides, weed killers
Latex, oil or water-based paints
Nail Polish and nail polish remover
Pet products, flea collars, flea sprays
Rat, mouse, snail and slug poisons
Roach and ant killers


Avoid mixing chemical products or cleaners. Mixing chemical products or cleaners can cause toxic or poisonous reactions.

Alternative Cleaning Products
Several non-hazardous materials are available for use in cleaning carpets, dishes, upholstery, windows and other items, deodorizing sinks, as well as removing rust and stains, they include ammonia, baking soda, cornstarch, lemon juice, soap and water, steel wool and vinegar.
Buying Household Products
Consider the following tips when you buy household products:

  • Read directions and health warnings.
  • Look for the least hazardous product.
  • Purchase child-resistant substances.
  • Use multipurpose cleaners.
  • Buy only what is needed.

Storing Household Products
Consider the following when storing household products: Use original containers for storage.

  • Regularly check containers for wear and tear.
  • Use larger, clearly marked containers to store leaking packages.
  • Store materials in a cool, dry place.
  • Separate incompatible products (e.g. pool chlorine and muriatic acid).

Using Household Products
Keep in mind the acronym LIES

  • Limit amount of materials stored.
  • Isolate the products in enclosed cabinets and keep containers tightly covered.
  • Eliminate unused or unneeded supplies.
  • Separate incompatible materials (e.g. baking soda and vinegar).

Also do the following when using household products:

  • Note and post the number of the local poison control center.
  • Read and follow directions carefully.
  • Use only the amount indicated.
  • Avoid mixing chemical products or cleaners.
  • Avoid splashing.
  • Wear protective clothing, a dust mask and safety glasses.
  • Work in well-ventilated areas.
  • Take frequent breaks for fresh air.
  • Keep away from children, expectant mothers.

Disposing of Household Products
There are several ways to dispose of hazardous household products. Options include using the entire supply, recycling unused portions, taking unused supplies to a household collection event and donating unused supplies to photo shops, local swimming pools, etc.

For more information please visit the Household Hazardous Waste disposal page.

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