Monthly Archives: September 2015

What’s in your garage?


Look into any competitive cyclist/triathlete’s garage and it could be confused with a bike shop. Many of us have bikes for every season, terrain and riding style. We have road bikes and time-trial bikes for racing, cyclocross for inclement weather and winter racing, a retired bike for the indoor trainer, mountain bikes for some downhill fun, a single speed for cruising to the cafe, and then the old bmx from childhood we’re hoping will become a collectors item.

My point is, you have bikes for specific purposes. Is your chain lube fit for purpose too? Or do you just swing for the good old WD40 because it was in the garage anyway? It keeps my doors from squeaking and does the same trick for my chain. But did you know this ubiquitous garage item can be hazardous to our health? WD40 contains chemicals that can be hazardous to our lungs, eyes and skin.

WD40 contains the chemicals Naphtha, Trimethylbenzene and Xylene. All three of these chemicals can cause respiratory and skin irritation. And Trimethylbenzene can also cause serious eye irritation.

So, consider how many times you ride a week, and how often you clean and lubricate your chain. Isn’t it worth keeping your lungs healthy by switching to purpose made non-aerosol, bike specific chain lube?

If you MUST use WD40 make sure you use in a well ventilated area. Preferably outside or at least in a garage with the door open all the way. It’s flammable too so keep the can away from heat and sunlight. WD40 can be fatal if swallowed so keep out of reach of kids and pets .


  1. WD40 Company Australia Pty Ltd. (2014). Safety Data Sheet WD40. Retrieved 2015, from
  2. Total Petrochemicals and Refining USA, Inc. (2015). Material Safety Data Sheet Xylene. Retrieved 2015, from
  3. NOVA Chemicals. (2013). Material Safety Data Sheet Naphtha. Retrieved 2015, from
  4. Acros Organics. (2015). Material Safety Data Sheet Trimethylbenzene. Retrieved 2015, from



Many people don’t think of carbon dioxide, commonly known as CO2, as being particularly harmful – other than to the environment in the form of greenhouse gases (Reich 2010). We breathe it out all the time and it is present in our everyday appliances like fridges, in our soft drinks and even in our smoke machines at parties (United Kingdom Health and Safety Executive 2015).

However, CO2 at concentrated levels in confined spaces is a health and safety risk. Not only can CO2 cut off oxygen supply, it’s hard to detect because it’s odourless – so you can’t smell it – and it’s colourless – so you can’t see it (Tox Town 2015).

Jose Pires_17953181_assignsubmission_file_co2-room

Throughout the hospital we have gas storage rooms containing full cylinders storing compressed CO2. A number of staff need to enter these rooms, especially maintenance staff, engineering personnel and research scientists.

So, before you enter a storage room remember:

  1. First check to see if you are entering a CO2 storage room – there is signage on the door of each room.
  2. Look up and check the monitor display above the door. Make sure it is displaying the green light, letting you know it is safe to enter.
  3. If it is green you can enter the room, but do not close the door behind you as it helps ventilate the room. A forced ventilation system has also been added to ensure there is air change over and crossflow at all times (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety 2013).
  4. If you hear or see the alarm go off when you are in the room, leave immediately. The alarm, which is located at floor level because CO2 is denser than air, is triggered when oxygen levels are low (United States Bureau of Land Management 2015).
  5. Do not re-enter the room until it is safe to do so.

If you are exposed to CO2 you may first experience shortness of breath, leading to sweating and then fatigue, nausea, dizziness, headaches and confusion. In extreme cases CO2 exposure can lead to loss of consciousness and even death (Air Liquide 2014; University of Sydney 2014; United States Bureau of Land Management 2015).

Please remember to report any incident of CO2 exposure to your supervisor and log it in our injury notification system.


Air Liquide 2015, ‘General hazards’, <>.

  • 2014, ‘Material safety data sheet: carbon dioxide’, <>.

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety 2013, ‘OSH answers fact sheets: carbon dioxide’, <>.

  • 2008, ‘OSH answers fact sheets: compressed gases’, <>.
  • Reich, P 2010, ‘Climate Change. The carbon dioxide exchange’, Science, vol. 329, pp. 774-5.
  • Tox Town 2015, ‘Carbon Dioxide’, <>.
  • United Kingdom Health and Safety Executive 2015, ‘General hazards of carbon dioxide’, <>.
  • United States Bureau of Land Management 2015, ‘Health Risk Evaluation for Carbon Dioxide (CO2)’, <>.
  • University of Sydney 2014, ‘Carbon dioxide exposure’, <>.

If it’s Certified Organic then it is safe isn’t it?


Making the shift to organic gardening practices means healthier food coming from the vegie patch but also keeping the gardeners safe and healthy right?

The picture shows an organic weed-killing product in my back shed. Looking at the label, or what you can see of it, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for concern, but as the label is faded, falling off and unreadable, I thought perhaps I should investigate further before making a final decision.

The instruction manual was easy to find on the internet, detailed and easy to understand but the safety instructions of wearing protective spray gear including goggles and respiratory mask started to raise safety questions (Certified Organics Ltd, 2012a).

I then looked for the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to try and find out why the protective gear was needed. The MSDS was also easily found on the company website and stated the product was a severe irritant to the eyes, moderate irritant to the skin and possible irritant to the respiratory system (Certified Organics Ltd, 2012b), explaining the need for wearing safety gear. On the comforting side, there were no listed effects for the product as a sensitiser or carcinogen and no reproductive or teratogenicity effects (Certified Organics Ltd, 2012b).

The safety precautions required are similar to those listed as required on the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for glycophospate based week killers (Scotts, 2012). Therefore, while I’m happy with our decision to control weeds organically, we won’t be getting rid of the safety gear anytime soon and perhaps I’ll provide feedback on the label durability. If you are considering making this shift, remember that even though it is organic, safety precautions are still required to keep everyone safe.


Certified Organics Ltd. (2012a). BioWeed (TM) Control Application Instructions. Commercial Application Manual. Retrieved August 13, 2015, from Certified Organics:

Certified Organics Ltd. (2012b). Material Safety Data Sheet. BioWeed (TM) Control. Retrieved August 13, 2015, from Certified Organics:

Scotts. (2012). Safety Data Sheet. Defender Glycophosphate 360 Weed Control. Retrieved August 13, 2015, from Scotts Australia:

Hidden chemicals our children are ingesting

food for kids

We are all interested in our family’s health, and often our children’s health instinctively above our own. We strive to provide balanced nutrition in the ways we know best and with the best of intentions. A balanced diet includes foods from many sources that include plant sources such as grains, legumes, fruit, vegetables and animal sources such as fish, beef, dairy products. Are we compromising our children’s potential for health when the 3 vege’s on their plate have been grown in chemically treated soils and sprayed with numerous chemicals to ward off many different kinds of bugs. Our children grow and develop fast and in the same way as adults their bodies are engaging in continual maintenance and repair functions. A lot is going on and all of it requires nutrients to sustain.

The better quality and purest form of these nutrients is required for the best outcomes of all metabolisms in the body. Pesticides in our foods can reduce important enzyme activity, cause allergies (e.g. Echsma), insensitivities (eg. Gluten intolerance), immobilise the effectiveness of nutrients within the food, disrupt microbial balance in the gut and worse have neurotoxic and carcinogenic properties. At a cellular level, providing the right ingredients is essential.

What can we do about it?

Eating organic and Biodynamic produce/ products is the only real way to avoid chemicals added to our foods. Food additives, e.g. MSG, sulfate are also very restricted ( cannot exceed 5% final mass) in these foods, and are only allowed if they ensure safety of the food. These foods cannot be irradiated or genetically modified. In today’s environment of polluted seas, soils, water and air, organic and biodynamic foods are an important protective buffer in our children’s health.


Organic Industry Standards and Certification Committee (OISCC). (2015). National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce. Retrieved from, pp.7 and 73

Organic Industry Standards and Certification Council. (2010). About Us. Retrieved from

Dr. Mercola. (2015). USDA Claims Pesticide Residues in Food Is Safe—Here’s Why They’re Wrong. Retrieved from

John Jeavons. (2015) Food is power. Are you in control of yours? Retrieved from

Hand sanitizers: handy or hazardous?

Hand Sanitizers

We all know the importance of good hand hygiene; when practiced regularly, “particularly before and after certain activities, this is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs/infections to others” (CDC, 2015). Hand hygiene awareness has lead to a broad range of hand sanitizing products being sold for everyday use. Marketed as a quick, portable, convenient and a no-water-necessary alternative to hand washing, these products boast ‘anti-bacterial’ properties which, lets face it are great when you’re stuck in a sticky situation with no soap and water. However, added ingredients in these products could be doing more harm then good.

Triclosan is a chemical added to some hand sanitizing products and whilst deemed effective in hospital settings to prevent hospital-acquired infections, there is no recent data that suggests extra health benefits from having these sanitizing products in the common household. In fact, regular use of products containing the chemical additive have been reported to cause contact dermatitis, skin and eye irritation and there are concerns that everyday use could cause unanticipated hormonal effects (FDA, 2015) “including interfering with the bodies thyroid hormone metabolism”. Another potential problem associated with everyday use of sanitizing products containing Triclosan is the correlation between overuse and increased allergies and asthma (Aviva Glaser, 2004).

Checking the ingredients list on the back of your hand sanitizing products could save you and your family from exposure to this chemical nasty. Whilst hand hygiene remains the single most important method to stop the spread of germs you don’t need to resort to a harmful chemical, washing with soap and water is as effective if done correctly. Information on correct hand washing procedures and when to wash can be found online, websites include:



  1. Centres for disease control and prevention, (2015). Handwashing. Received from:
  2. Glaser, A. (2004). The Ubiquitous Triclosan: A common antibacterial agent exposed. Beyond Pesticides/National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, 24, No. 3. Retrieved from:
  3. S Food and Drug administration, (2015). FDA Taking Closer Look at ‘Antibacterial’ Soap. Received from:

What price will you pay for white teeth?

Home teeth whiteners

In the quest to obtain a beautiful smile, teeth whiteners bought over the counter in pharmacies or the Internet have become a popular and cheap alternative to a dental visit. These products come in many forms, from heat mouldable mouth trays with bleaching gel, prefilled trays, to whitening strips, pens and paint on peroxide gels. But what is the price of beauty?

Two common active ingredients in teeth whitening products are a clear liquid called hydrogen peroxide, or a solid called carbamide peroxide (which delivers hydrogen peroxide). Once the hydrogen peroxide infiltrates the enamel it reacts with the dentin of the stained tooth producing the desired whitening effect.

To achieve that whitening effect you may be getting more than you bargained for.

The side effects can include decreased tooth enamel strength, severe tooth sensitivity, damaged gums and blistering. High concentrations may cause severe irritations and chemical burns to skin, eyes and the inside of your mouth, with lasting effects. If the hydrogen peroxide is swallowed you may even suffer from bleeding of the stomach or oesophagus.

So how do you know that the take- home teeth-whitening product you are buying is safe?

  • The product that you buy should not contain more than 6% hydrogen peroxide or 18% carbamide peroxide
  • You should purchase the teeth whitening kit from a reputable supplier
  • Follow the instructions for use carefully
  • Seek advice from your dentist if in any doubt

An assessment of your teeth and gums by your dentist will determine if teeth- whitening is an option for you. Alternatively you can try to reduce staining agents such as coffee, tea, red wine, and curries. Simple methods such as brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing and drinking plenty of water will assist that smile to stay naturally white!


Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. (2014). What you need to know about: Safety of do-it-yourself (DIY) teeth whitening products for at home use. Retrieved from:—%20Safety%20of%20do-it-yourself%20(DIY)%20teeth%20whitening%20products%20for%20at%20home%20use.pdf

Australian Dental Association. (2011). How much do you really know about teeth whitening? Retrieved from:

National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (Nicnas). (2015). DIY teeth whitening kits. Fact sheet. Retrieved from:

Safety Alert – Ethylene Ripening Agent

Ethylene is a hazardous substance, used to ripen bananas in warehouses. It can cause temporary health effects of frost-bite like burns to skin and eyes and drowsiness or dizziness if inhaled. This communication is for Managers responsible for banana ripening rooms in warehouses to review and ensure their controls are in place to prevent incident, injury and illness.

The Risks:


Ethylene is highly combustible if ignited or heated.

As it is a compressed gas, a ruptured ethylene cylinder may become a projectile and cause a frost-bite like burn to skin or eyes.

Within Ripening Rooms:

Inhalation can cause temporary drowsiness or dizziness. Carbon dioxide also accumulates as a by-product of ripening.

Required Controls:

Engineering Controls:

  • The maintenance department must regularly inspect the dispensing system, air quality monitoring system and the ventilation system.

Isolation Controls:

  • Store indoors, away from direct sunlight and sources of heat.
  • Secure full and empty cylinders upright with a chain and within a storage cage.
  • Place locks on storage cages and ripening room doors.

Administrative Controls:

  • Ventilate ripening rooms daily prior to access.
  • Maintain air quality monitoring. Only enter ripening rooms after checking oxygen levels.
  • Post placards indicating compressed gas, highly flammable and temporary health effects if inhaled or if exposed to skin and eyes.
  • Erect “No Smoking” and “Authorised Access Only” signs.
  • Provide the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) near storage, use and to first aiders.
  • Invite the fire brigade to site to tour the facility and check emergency preparedness procedures.
  • Detail the above risks and required controls within Safe Work Method Statements, Work Instructions and training.
  • Only authorise access once verified as competently trained.


Personal Protective Equipment:

  • Wear safety glasses, leather or cotton gloves and safety boots when changing cylinders.Banana Ripening Rooms