Hazardous materials

From industrial chemicals to household detergents and air fresheners, hazardous materials are part of our everyday lives. Hazardous materials are substances that, because of their chemical nature, pose a potential risk to life, health or property if they are released. Hazards can exist during production, storage, transportation, use or disposal. 

Advice

  • If you witness (or smell) a hazardous materials accident, call 999 as soon as safely possible. Please remember NOT to switch on your mobile phone if you think you are standing near flammable gas. 
  • Stay away from the incident site to minimise the risk of contamination. 
  • If you are in a car, stop and seek shelter in a building if possible. If you must remain in your car, keep car windows and vents closed and shut off the air conditioner and heater. 
  • If asked to evacuate your home, do so immediately. Always follow the advice of the emergency services. 
  • If you live in the public information zone around a regulated site read the information provided to you. If the site has an Automated Voice Messaging Service, sign up to it. It will inform you around the clock if there is an emergency.

Toxic chemical or radiation release

If you were very near a possible radiation or toxic chemical release and you think you may have become contaminated, wait for the emergency services, they will provide decontamination facilities, and don't leave the scene or take yourself to hospital if you think you are contaminated. Wait for specialist advice. 

Household chemical emergencies

Nearly every household uses products containing hazardous materials. Although the risk of a chemical accident is slight, knowing how to handle these products and how to react during an emergency can reduce the risk of injury. 

  • Follow the instructions on the product label for proper disposal of chemicals. 
  • Take outdated or unused medicines back to the pharmacy for disposal. 
  • Read the instructions before using new chemical products and be sure to store household chemicals according to the instructions on the label. 
  • Store chemicals in a safe, secure location, preferably up high and always out of reach of children. 
  • Avoid mixing household chemical products. 
  • Never smoke while using chemicals. If you spill chemicals, clean them up immediately with rags. Wear gloves and eye protection. Allow the fumes in the rags to evaporate outdoors, and then dispose of the rags in accordance with the instructions on how to dispose of the chemical itself. 
  • Keep the Poisons Information Service: 0845 46 47 by all telephones.

Learn to recognise symptoms of toxic poisoning:

  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Irritation of the eyes, skin, throat or respiratory tract 
  • Changes in skin colour 
  • Headache or blurred vision 
  • Clumsiness or lack of co-ordination 
  • Cramps or diarrhoea

If your child should eat or drink a non-food substance, find the container immediately and take with you when you call for help. Medical professionals may need specific information from the container to give you the best emergency advice.

  • Call 999 
  • Follow the professional advice carefully. Do not give anything by mouth before told to do so by a medical professional 
  • Read up on what to do in case of poisoning in your first aid manual before anything happens. 
  • Take immediate action if the chemical gets into the eyes. 
  • Flush the eye with clean water for a minimum of 15 minutes, unless authorities instruct you not to use water on this particular chemical. 
  • Continue cleansing even if the patient indicates they are no longer feeling pain and then seek medical attention