Danger From Chemicals
Chemical spills can cause damage,
illness, and death to living things exposed to them. Every day, trains
and trucks carry loads of hazardous chemicals, and it is inevitable that an
accident will happen to some of them. While these spills are generally
few and far between, they can be catastrophic to those in their direct
path. Years ago, a friend was driving on a highway in New Jersey when
traffic was stopped so that crews could take care of a chemical spill.
Our friend observed that while the workers were dressed in complete
contamination suits, he was sitting there in his tee shirt.
If you are like our friend and are
in the vicinity of a chemical spill, there are steps you should take to protect
yourself. To begin with, if you can get away, by driving or running, do so.
Roll up your car windows immediately, and shut off the air vents. Some spills
manifest themselves as plumes or clouds, as a volatile liquid mixes with the
air. Cover your mouth and nose with a moistened handkerchief or any fabric. Having a gas mask is best. Do
not enter the cloud. If you have become contaminated by aerosol or liquid
chemicals remove your clothing and change into fresh garments, it is better to
wrap a sheet around yourself rather than continue wearing polluted clothing.
Rescue and emergency workers will soon be on hand, and you should follow their
directions as regards decontamination and medical care. Should the spill happen
near your home, get inside quickly and close all windows and doors. Emergency
workers will tell you if you must evacuate, but until they do, stay inside.
In The Home
While we tend to worry most about
spills of hazardous chemicals outside the home, everyone’s house contains its
own little time bomb. If you take a peek in your basement or even under the
kitchen sink, you will see that there are quite a few dangerous chemicals. Some
of these can be especially hazardous if they combine, such as bleach and
ammonia – this actually makes nerve gas. Should there be a spill of household
chemicals in the wake of a disaster, leave your home quickly. Open windows if
you can do so safely. In most cases, it will be possible to enter once the
volatile fluids have evaporated, but do so wearing protective mask, gloves, and footwear.
Have Five Senses, Use Them!
The basic senses with which nature
has endowed you are your best friends for detecting chemical hazards. Your
first indication may be smell when you detect an
unfamiliar and sharp odor. Bear in mind, however, that some chemicals actually
have a sweet odor, so any smell with which you are not familiar should be
viewed skeptically. You may also see a cloud of
aerosol chemicals or fluid on the ground. If you touch something
and feel a burning sensation, it is probably something harmful. Sometimes
chemical spills will announce themselves with an explosion, so be alert to sounds. Likewise, a bitter, acidic, or nauseous taste is an indication that conditions are not normal.