Safety First

Do you use bleach at home? Do you use toilet cleaner products or drain cleaner? Do you use any ammonia based cleaners? If you use any of these, you are handling potentially very dangerous chemicals, and this information is relevant to you.

The other day, I watched a video demonstration in which the demonstrator was handling sulfuric acid without gloves. For those of you that are unaware of the dangers of sulfuric acid, sulfuric acid is an extremely corrosive acid that can cause serious burns on contact with skin. Seeing this prompted me to write this post about chemical safety. Chemical safety definitely is not one of the most fun nor interesting topics, but it is important. It is definitely more fun than burning your skin and eyes or irritating your lungs so be sure to handle hazardous chemicals properly and safely.

These are my own gloves, protective goggles, and arm length coat. This is the personal protective equipment someone should have when they are handling any dangerous chemical.

Now, most of us would have to common sense to wear protective gear when handling chemicals called sulfuric acid. I mean, the name even sounds dangerous. But how many of us realize how dangerous common household chemicals can be? Many of us probably have this notion in our heads that if you can buy it in a supermarket or a grocery store, it cannot be that bad.

An example of a fairly dangerous household chemical is bleach. The main active ingredient in bleach is sodium hypochlorite.

 sodium hypochlorite

Under my bathroom sink, I have Chlorox bleach. A quick look on the Chlorox website can lead you to the MSDS or Material Safety Data Sheet information. (See http://www.thecloroxcompany.com/products/msds/) You can easily find the safety information for all of their products. MSDS information is readily available from manufacturers of chemicals.

Let us take a look at just regular bleach (http://www.thecloroxcompany.com/downloads/msds/bleach/cloroxregularbleach0809_.pdf). The first two words in capital letters under the Health Hazard Data section are “DANGER: CORROSIVE.” Well, that seems pretty safe, doesn’t it? It is then followed by “May cause severe irritation or damage to eyes and skin. Vapor or mist may irritate.” In short, bleach is probably more dangerous than the average person realizes. Chlorox also provides the recommendations given for production facilities which include wearing safety goggles and using rubber or nitrile gloves. Of course, household bleach may be more dilute than what is used in the production facilities, but why would you not want to protect yourself? Accidents happen and bleach can be spilled or splashed onto you. Would you rather have had goggles on if it gets onto your face or would you rather risk severe damage to the eyes?

Safety is important when using any kind of chemical. Some common items can actually be quite hazardous, and it is important to check safety information. Whether you are working in a lab, experimenting for fun, or even just using common household chemicals, wear the proper protective equipment because keeping yourself safe is a priority.

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