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Chemical emergencies

Under certain conditions, chemicals which are normally safe can be poisonous or harmful to your health. A major chemical emergency is an accident that releases a hazardous amount of a chemical into the environment. Accidents can happen underground, on railways or highways, and at manufacturing plants. They may involve fire or explosion, or you may be unable to see or smell anything.

You may be exposed to a chemical in three ways: 

  • Breathing the chemical
  • Swallowing contaminated food, water or medication
  • Touching the chemical, or coming into contact with clothing or things that have touched the chemical  

If you are outdoors during a large-scale hazardous material release, stay upwind or upstream of the release and find shelter immediately.

Many people think of chemicals as only those substances used in manufacturing processes. But chemicals are found everywherein our kitchens, medicine cabinets, basements and garages. The most common home chemical emergencies involve small children eating medicines.

Keep all medicines, cosmetics, cleaning products and other household chemicals out of sight and reach of children. If your child eats or drinks a non-food substance, find any containers immediately and take them to the phone. Call the poison control center (see page 1 for number) or 911 and follow their instructions carefully.

Home product precautions

  • Avoid mixing household chemicals.
  • Always read the directions before using a new product.
  • Never smoke while using household chemicals.
  • If you should spill a chemical, clean it up immediately, being careful to protect your eyes and skin.
  • Dispose of products properly to preserve our environment and protect wildlife.