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Household Chemical Emergencies

Nearly every household uses products containing hazardous materials or chemicals.

Cleaning Products Indoor Pesticides Automotive Products
  • Oven cleaners
  • Drain cleaners
  • Wood and metal cleaners and polishes
  • Toilet cleaners
  • Tub, tile, shower cleaners
  • Bleach (laundry)
  • Pool chemicals
  • Ant sprays and baits
  • Cockroach sprays and baits
  • Flea repellents and shampoo
  • Bug sprays
  • Houseplant insecticides
  • Moth repellents
  • Mouse and rat poisons and baits
  • Motor oil
  • Fuel additives
  • Carburetor and fuel injection cleaners
  • Air conditioning refrigerants
  • Starter fluids
  • Automotive batteries
  • Transmission and brake fluid
  • Antifreeze
Workshop/Painting Supplies Lawn and Garden Products Miscellaneous
  • Workshop/Painting Supplies
  • Adhesives and glues
  • Furniture strippers
  • Oil- or enamel-based paint
  • Stains and finishes
  • Paint thinners and turpentine
  • Paint strippers and removers
  • Photographic chemicals
  • Fixatives and other solvents
  • Herbicides
  • Insecticides
  • Fungicides/wood preservatives
  • Batteries
  • Mercury thermostats or thermometers
  • Fluorescent light bulbs
  • Driveway sealer
Other Flammable Products
  • Propane tanks and other compressed gas cylinders
  • Kerosene
  • Home heating oil
  • Diesel fuel
  • Gas/oil mix
  • Lighter fluid

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.

Take Protective Measures

Before a Household Chemical Emergency

The following are guidelines for buying and storing hazardous household chemicals safely:

Take the following precautions to prevent and respond to accidents:

Learn to recognize the symptoms of toxic poisoning, which are as follows:

Be prepared to seek medical assistance:

During a Household Chemical Emergency

If there is a danger of fire or explosion:

If someone has been exposed to a household chemical:

Discard clothing that may have been contaminated. Some chemicals may not wash out completely.

Checking Your Home

There are probably many hazardous materials throughout your home. Take a tour of your home to see where these materials are located. Use the list of common hazardous household items presented earlier to guide you in your hunt. Once you have located a product, check the label and take the necessary steps to ensure that you are using, storing, and disposing of the material according to the manufacturer’s directions. It is critical to store household chemicals in places where children cannot access them. Remember that products such as aerosol cans of hair spray and deodorant, nail polish and nail polish remover, toilet bowl cleaners, and furniture polishes all fall into the category of hazardous materials.

For More Information

If you require more information about any of these topics, the following are resources that may be helpful.

FEMA Publications

Household Hazardous Materials: A Guide for Citizens. IS 55. An independent study resource for parents and teachers. Web-based safety program focused on reducing the number of deaths and injuries in the home. Available online at

Chemical Emergencies. A pamphlet promoting awareness of chemical hazards in the home, how to prevent them, and what to do if exposed. Available online at

Backgrounder: Hazardous Materials. 0.511. Information sheet available online at

USFA: Factsheet: Baby-sitters Make the Right Call to EMS. 0510. Available online at

Other Publications

American Red Cross
Chemical Emergencies. Extensive document describing the hazards of household chemicals and what to do in an emergency. Available online at,1082,0_581_,00.html.

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Last Modified: Friday, 23-May-2008 17:00:58 EDT