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Monday, April 20, 2020


By Tim Herrera and Jolie Kerr, New York Times/ Smarter
Living Desk--As meticulously cleaning our homes (especially during our ongoing virus crisis) becomes a national pastime, it’s important to remember that many of the cleaning agents we use can be hazardous when used incorrectly.

Spraying yourself or others with Lysol, or mixing cleaning products together, are just two examples of the countless ways to use your cleaning supplies incorrectly — and dangerously. Here are some guidelines to help keep you and your family safe.

Avoiding common hazards
Incorrect use of bleach
Chlorine bleach, which can appear on ingredients lists as sodium hypochlorite, must not be mixed with any chemical other than water, as it can create dangerous and potentially deadly gasses. Likewise, when using bleach, remember to keep the area in which you’re cleaning well-ventilated: Open windows and doors so you don’t inhale harmful amounts of the toxic fumes it gives off. If you start to feel queasy or lightheaded or experience problems breathing, take a break to get some fresh air, and if your symptoms are severe, call Poison Control. (Take a moment and save the Poison Control number in your phone: 1-800-222-1222. You can call Poison Control for both human and animal accidents.)

Misusing Lysol disinfecting spray
There are many ways to misuse Lysol, and it is important for your health to know how to use it properly.

 “Lysol spray is a disinfectant — it’s designed for use on surfaces,” said Joe Rubino, director of research and development for microbiology at Reckitt Benckiser, Lysol’s parent company. “It is not meant to be used on the body, whether it be humans or pets. By no means should you do that.”

“As a disinfectant, it’s not meant for food,” he added. “We would not want anybody spraying this on food — there’s no need to use a Lysol product on food.”

The incorrect use of Lysol can also cause material damage; while Lysol is designed for use on most hard surfaces, it should not be used on painted wood, acrylic plastic, leather or silk. Lysol can be used to disinfect children’s toys, but they should be rinsed with potable water afterward.

“If there is a question about whether or not a surface would be safe for Lysol spray, what we recommend is that you use it on a small, inconspicuous area just to be sure,” Mr. Rubino said.

Punctured laundry detergent packs
Laundry detergent packs should never be punctured or cut open. The detergent in packs is highly concentrated, and it poses a risk if it comes in contact with the eye, either from being squirted out of a pack or from the detergent being transferred from the hands to the eyes. If you need to use laundry detergent for spot treating, hand-laundering or other cleaning purposes, use diluted liquid or powder laundry detergent, rather than puncturing a detergent pack. Also remember to keep packs out of reach of children and pets.

Not storing products safely
Keep cleaning products locked up and out of reach in homes with small children, elderly relatives and pets.

“We strongly encourage you to keep chemicals in their original containers,” said Joe Martyak, director of communications for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. If you are going to transfer a cleaning product or a solution into a container that it did not come in, Mr. Martyak said that “it shouldn’t look like a beverage container and especially not be labeled like that — being sure to label the new container correctly is very important.”

Mixing cleaning products
As a rule of thumb, don’t mix cleaning products, and you should err on the side of caution instead of using a product for a nondesignated use if you’re unsure whether it’s safe. If you are going to use a product for a nondesignated use, spot-test it on a small, inconspicuous area to determine whether it will cause damage.

Let’s recap
It is critical that you avoid mixing cleaning products that contain chlorine bleach, ammonia, alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. These ingredients are especially dangerous, as they create toxic gasses that can sicken and even kill you when mixed together or when mixed with seemingly innocuous ingredients like vinegar.

And be careful about sequential cleaning — using one product after another on the same surface. Though it’s less dangerous than directly mixing chemicals in a bottle, it can still be deadly. To err on the safe side, use only one product at a time. But if you must use two separate products to clean and disinfect, check the ingredient listings of both to ensure there are no potentially dangerous reactions, then wipe the surface thoroughly with water to remove all residue from the first product before introducing the second product.

Learn about the products you use
There are four places you can check to learn about the safe and correct use of cleaning products:
--Usage and directions: Usage and safety instructions are printed on the product’s packaging. If the information is hard to read because of the small print, you can find it online by searching for the product name and “usage” or “directions.”
--Ingredients listing: A product’s ingredients are also on the packaging, or can be found online by searching for the product name and “ingredients.” While it can be difficult to interpret ingredient names, scan for the three you want to watch out for: sodium hypochlorite, isopropanol and ammonium hydroxide, which will tell you if a product contains chlorine bleach, isopropyl alcohol or household ammonia. To reiterate: These ingredients are dangerous to mix, so be extremely careful when you’re using a product that contains any of them.
--Safety Data Sheets: An S.D.S. provides all of the critical information about a cleaning product — ingredients, handling and storage instructions, hazard warnings and first-aid measures — in one document. It can be found online by searching for the product name and “S.D.S.”
--SmartLabel: SmartLabel is a database of thousands of food, beverage, personal care, household and pet care products. It details usage, ingredients, storage and disposal, hazards, first-aid measures and more. Two especially helpful features are explanations of individual ingredient listings and easy-to-find links to a product’s S.D.S.

Signs you might be sick
Determining if you’re at risk after misusing a cleaning product depends on the point of contact, but call Poison Control immediately if any of these situations apply to you:
--if the product is swallowed and is causing burning or irritation of the mouth and throat, coughing or choking;
--if the product has gotten in the eyes and is causing burning or irritation;
--if the product has been inhaled and is causing burning or irritation of the mouth and throat, coughing or choking;
--if the product has made contact with the skin and is causing burning, itching or blistering.

When in doubt, call Poison Control — its experts will assess the situation and can advise you on first aid measures or when to seek medical help, if necessary. It can also tell you if there is no risk. Poison Control has a guide to first aid treatments to undertake when a product is accidentally swallowed, inhaled or has made contact with the skin or eyes.

Calling Poison Control can help reduce unnecessary emergency room visits, which is especially crucial as the coronavirus pushes health care system to their limits.

from newsletter:
“Cleaning Products Can Be Dangerous When Mixed.”
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