Monthly Archives: September 2017

Toxic For Bindis, Toxic For You

It’s that time of year again. Plants are emerging from the depths of winter and the garden is filling with spring flowers. But, along with all this wonderful new growth comes the arrival of that dreaded lawn weed – the bindi. A badly infested lawn can be impossible to negotiate with bare feet so what can be done to prevent or minimise the pain and tears?

Commercial bindi sprays contain two main herbicides: Dicamba and MCPA, both of which are corrosive to skin, harmful to humans if swallowed and if splashed or wiped into the eye cause serious eye damage/irritation (Choice, 2015; Yates, 2015).

It’s not just humans who can be affected by these chemicals. Dicamba and MCPA are also recognised as toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects. It follows too, that household pets could also be at risk of poisoning by ingesting sprayed grass.

So how can you minimise the risks?
• Store the spray in a secure place out of reach of children
• Wear a mask when spraying to avoid breathing in the mist
• Don’t spray on a windy day!
• Wear protective gloves and clothing to avoid skin contact
• Keep your pets and children out of the area until the leaves have dried
• If skin contact occurs, immediately wash the area with cold water.
• Call the POISON INFORMATION HOTLINE on 131126 if accidentally swallowed

Ecologically friendly and cheaper removal options do exist. You can extract bindis manually with a screwdriver or pour a simple mixture of vinegar, dishwashing liquid and salt on them.
My advice – try your natural options first. Use commercial sprays as a last resort and with extreme care. Finally, set your mower to a higher grass length setting to provide competition for bindis in future.

Enjoy a prickle and toxic free summer!

Written by Sally Postma


Choice. (2015, 18 August 2017). Choice-Dicamba-500-Herbicide. Retrieved from

Yates. (2015). Retrieved from YATES_BINDII___CLOVER_WEEDER-AUS_GHS%20(1).pdf

Methylated spirits in clinics

The chemical exposure and risk to Therapists and their patients’ needs to be considered to avoid skin and eye irritation as well as ingestion or inhalation where children may be present. Alternate products such as Skin Prep wipes or Spray may be more appropriate and reduce the risk of adverse eye or skin irritations, inhalation or oral ingestion.

The safety data sheet (SDS) for Methylated Spirits (>95% Ethanol) indicates that symptoms that could result from repeated skin exposure including burning or a cracked appearance and defatting leading to dermatitis (Rechochem SDS, 20 February 2017). A Therapist may have to repeatedly apply tape to the same area of skin over a prolonged period and it is important to reduce the risk of skin reaction to both the therapist as well as to enhance the therapeutic effect for the patient of the taping. There is also the risk of inhalation, eye contact and ingestion if the chemical is not stored correctly out of children’s reach, or if in a rush the lid is left unlocked.

Methylated spirits

Practice owners and Therapists should consider reducing the risk to themselves as Treating Therapists and their patients by using a suitable alternative such as Skin Prep wipes or spray. Skin Prep spray in particular eliminates hand contact by the Therapist and reduces the chance of ingestion risk to children. Isopropyl alcohol (75-100%) is the active alcohol ingredient in Skin Prep wipes and spray and may be less likely to cause a skin irritation as lower quantities of alcohol are applied in spray and wipe formats (Smith & Nephew SDS No 6, 20 December 2016). In lower concentrations it is less likely to irritate the Therapist’s and the patient’s skin with longer term use and may help to achieve a better therapeutic outcome for the patient. A win for both you and your clients!

Written by Ryan Gilliman


Smith & Nephew Safety Data Sheet, Skin Prep Wipes.  No 6, 20 December 2016.  Retrieved via:

Rechochem Safety Data Sheet, Diggers Methylated Spirits, 20 February 2017.  Retrieved via:

Householder Safety Whilst Using Graffiti Remover

Graffiti is an enduring problem in all Australian cities (Morgan, 2009). One trip on a train into any city in Australia will highlight the prevalence of the graffiti problem. However it is not just limited to rail corridors and public spaces; the household fence is also an easy target. Fortunately as the prevalence of graffiti has grown and the popularity of the practice remains, so the development and sale of products to industry and the household has grown to meet the need. Selleys “Muck-Off Graffiti Remover” is one such product available to the consumer to remove unsightly graffiti from the domestic fence (Dulux Group (Australia) Pty Ltd, 2016).

Householders need to be particularly vigilant on the products they use to remove graffiti from a health perspective. Labelling on the can only covers so much and it is unlikely householders will call up a Safety Data Sheet to review all the safety requirements. Householders need to understand the graffiti remover product such as the one above is a class 4 flammable liquid – so smoking while you are applying this stuff is not a good idea! As a mist is created when the can is sprayed onto the fence the householder needs to be mindful of the weather conditions in which the spray is being applied. Windy days will blow the mist spray around and can create an inhalation, ingestion or skin contact issue.

Graffiti remover spray

Householders are well advised to wear overalls, safety goggles and impervious gloves over long sleeves to avoid skin contact. To avoid inhalation or ingestion householders should wear an organic vapour / particulate respirator meeting the requirements of AS/NZS 1715 (Standards Australia, 2009) and store the can out of direct sunlight. Finally don’t forget to wash hands prior to eating, drinking or smoking after the task is complete.
Written by Richard Aitken

Dulux Group (Australia) Pty Ltd. (2016). Safety Data Sheet – Selleys Muck-Off Graffiti Remover. Victoria: Selleys.

Morgan, A. a. (2009). Key Issues in Graffiti. Australian Institiute of Criminology.

Standards Australia. (2009). Selection, Use and Maintenance of Respiratory Protective Devices (AS/NZS 1715:2009). Standards Australia.


Pesticides, plate, poo and psychology!

The use of chemicals has become a part of modern growth. Their use has effected the way we clean our houses, dye our hair and in more recent years how we cultivate and grow our crops to put on the family dinner plate.

The evolution of pesticides in farming produce has really challenged Wittenoom’s progress verses safety theory. Farmers are now able to grow bigger, brighter and faster crops with more certainty of return at the end of the season. Crops are now able to be harvested prior to full maturity and ripened via chemicals on-route to the shopping centre’s isles, meaning longer shelf life.  For fear of the financial compromises on the industry, little reliable research has been completed on what the consequences are on the consumer.

The effects on the produce’s nutrient value is one that deserves more research. Is the safety of our food being compromised by progression?

Many health side-effects have been attributed, if not only partially, to a nutritional deficiency. Latest research into the psyche has found a direct link between the healthy bacteria of the gut (poo) and depression.

If the foods we eat are reduced nutritionally by the way we choose to use chemicals to hasten the growth, no wonder we now have an epidemic of mental health concerns treated by… chemicals.

Written by Alison Barham


Bagheri, Es’Haghi, Es-Haghi, & Mesbahi. (2012). A high-throughput approach for the determination of pesticide residues in cucumber samples using solid-phase microextraction on 96-well plate. Analytica Chimica Acta,740, 36-42.

Ghanbari, Moattar, Monavari, & Arjmandi. (2017). Human health risk assessment of organophosphorus pesticide in rice crop from selected districts of Anzali. International Wetland basin, Iran. Human & Experimental Toxicology, 36(5), 438-444.

Guo, J., Wong, J., Cui, C., Li, X., & Yu, H. (2015). A smartphone-readable barcode assay for the detection and quantitation of pesticide residues. The Analyst, 140(16), 5518-5525.

Lawrence, K., & Hyde, J. (2017). Microbiome restoration diet improves digestion, cognition and physical and emotional wellbeing. PLoS ONE, 12(6), E0179017.

Lozowicka, B. (2015). Health risk for children and adults consuming apples with pesticide residue. The Science of the Total Environment, 502, 184-98.

Schmidt, C. (2015). Mental health: Thinking from the gut. Nature, 518(7540), S12-5.

Presence of Trace Metals in Fish

Australians are among the heaviest consumers of meat in the world. I was a nonchalant contributor to this statistic when cholesterol levels from a recent medical check-up prompted me to consider healthier eating habits. Fish was the obvious alternative to meat protein, so I turned to online forums to find out where people were getting their seafood and what kind. This is how I was introduced to the controversial topic of whether fish was the ultimate answer.

I discovered concepts such as biomagnification and bioaccumulation through which heavy metals from contaminated water is transferred through food chains and build up to biologically harmful concentrations. A study of concentrations of trace metals in canned fish in USA showed unsafe mercury levels in some samples of Tuna. The same study advises moderate consumption of fish as it may cause health risks. Another study looked at concentration of mercury in human hair related to fish consumption and found that the concentration increases substantially with frequency of eating fish.

A quick look at the canned fish section in the supermarket revealed that most of the product is imported, making it a hard task to determine quality of the fish. Ditto for the frozen fish fillets. It seems, the safest bet would be fresh fish. But studies of trace metal concentrations in fish flesh near industrial and metropolitan regions in South Australia have revealed quantities of lead that is higher than the maximum permissible levels for safe consumption. Even if you go for local produce, do you know where the fresh fish comes from or how ‘fresh’ it really is?!

I am convinced the only way to know you get good fish is to catch them yourself from areas with unpolluted water. If you can’t be bothered, you can always trust the food quality standards in Australia and follow the cardinal rule – ‘Everything in moderation’ – it applies to fish too!

Written by Awin Antony

Hydrochloric Acid

Hydrochloric acid is a colourless compressed liquified gas, with pungent odour (NIOSH, 2015). It is used to regulate water pH in pools. This is only one of many applications the acid can be used for. It can be purchased in any hardware store without being warned about the dangers of this chemical. The acid is very corrosive and if the acid itself or its mist comes into contact with your eyes, skin or internal organs, it may cause irreversible damage that in some cases may even be fatal (VelocityEHS, 2017).

Often those owning a pool are unaware of the health hazards involving chemicals. There have been a number of incidents, where new pool owners were not informed of the correct use of certain chemicals and crucial steps and advice in the process of maintaining swimming pool conditions were simply withheld by retailers (Evo Heat, 2014).

A number of potential situations in which accidents may happen are when:
• Preparing and transferring hydrochloric acid to a smaller bucket to transfer it from its storage location to the pool – fumes and splashes.
• Accidentally mixing chlorine and hydrochloric acid (because you were not informed of adequate mixing techniques and procedures) – toxic fumes.
• Inadequate mixing of chemicals – fire and explosion.
It is therefore extremely important to wear adequate PPE, such as gloves and protective clothing at a minimum, when handling this chemical. Hydrochloric acid should further be stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area away from sources of moisture and other incompatible materials (VelocityEHS, 2017).

If, despite following adequate safety precautions, the acid does splash onto your skin or gets into the eyes, it is important to immediately rinse the affected area with water for 15-20minutes and if severe, seek medical attention; remove contaminated clothing, before if comes in contact with your skin and causes burns (Acid Solutions, 2017).

These are just a few examples of safety precautions when using acid; labels and other instructions, such as those contained in Safety Data Sheets (available online or from the supplier) should always be considered.

Written by Jelena Price


Acid Solutions. (2017). Hydrochloric Acid. Retrieved from

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). (2015). Hydrogen Chloride. Retrieved from

VelocityEHS. (2017). Hydrochloric Acid Hazards & Safety Tips. Retrieved from

A hazardous task

I used to always joke that cleaning was bad for my health – turns out it really can be!

Having the recent unpleasant task of performing a rigorous final clean of my rental I was hit by a truck. Well not quite a truck, but it certainly felt like it. About 15 minutes into scrubbing the nooks and crannies of the bathroom using the ‘Exit Mould’ cleaner it hit me. After stopping the task (didn’t need to ask me twice!) and grabbing some water and fresh air it dawned on me – here I was, a safety professional, using a hazardous product in an enclosed environment with only a half-opened window and an (ineffective) ceiling fan.

This is a commonly accessible cleaning product available from the supermarket and often stored in readily accessible cupboards. Yet on further inspection of the ‘Exit Mould’ Safety Data Sheet (Reckitt Benckiser (Australia), 2016) this is a Corrosive, Dangerous Goods chemical, that causes “Major Health Hazards” including severe skins burns, eye damage and was recommended to be stored in a locked container. And there I was, using the chemical in close proximity to my skin and face trying to get the cleaning done as fast as possible…

Easily available at the supermarket, but hazardous if used incorrectly.

My recommendation:
As someone who tries to learn from their (many) mistakes, I’m hoping you can learn from mine too. Whilst there may be the assumption that these everyday household items are relatively safe, they may actually be quite harmful, especially if used incorrectly.
Look up a chemical’s MSDS online and have a brief read of the key sections (such as ‘Handling and Storage’) at least once before using a chemical for the first time. Also check the product’s storage recommendations, especially if young children are in the house, whilst also keeping the Poisons Information Line (13 11 26) handy just in case.

Hopefully you can then avoid being hit by a truck when cleaning your house.

Written by Robert Dival


Reckitt Benckiser (Australia) Pty Limited. (2016). Safety Data Sheet.  Product Name: Exit Mould.  Retrieved from

One Spray too Many

They might make your space smell great, but are those plug in, turn on, spray away air fresheners really much more harmful than we realise?

Whilst we may use air fresheners to get rid of bad odours and replace with something more, palatable and pleasant, there is growing concern around the chemicals that are used, and the effect that they potentially have on people. There are several chemicals in the air fresheners that we buy in the supermarket, whether they be the plug-in-and-leave variety or the aerosol versions used as required. At many different concentrations, the exposure to emissions from air fresheners causes an increase in pulmonary and sensory irritation, and reductions in the velocity of airflow. Breathing rate can become irregular and the amount of air inhaled can be affected by exposure to the emissions from air fresheners.

As well as direct exposure to the spraying of the odour neutraliser, there is a chemical known as Pthalates found in air fresheners, which can have a negative affect on people’s health. Pthalates primarily result in reproductive issues in some individuals, and can cause infertility or malformations in reproductive tracts in both men and women. It has also been shown to cause birth defects in infants.

So next time you reach for that vanilla scented spray at the supermarket…think again!
Consider natural based products or candles instead.

Written by Myra Berry

Anderson, R. C. & Anderson, J. H. (1997). Toxic Effects of Air Freshener Emissions. Archives of Environmental Health: An International Journal, 52(6), 433 – 441. doi: 10.1080/00039899709602222.

Living Safe. (2017). Synthetic Air Fresheners Are Actually Poisoning Us. Retrieved from

Walsh, J. (2009). PHTHALATES. The National Academies in Focus, 8(3), 12. Retrieved from


White King Bleach is a bleach product that comes in either 1 litre or 2 litre bottles, is manufactured by Pental Products Pty Ltd and its main use is for mopping floors or washing whites in a washing machine. It has been classified as a hazardous substance due to the fact it contains Sodium Hypochlorite and Sodium Hydroxide, and extreme care should be taken when handling.
White King Bleach has some serious consequences if it comes into contact with your eyes, skin or if ingested such as causing serious eye damage and skin irritation, it is also classified as harmful if swallowed.
When using White King Bleach apply engineering and personal protective equipment risk controls from the hierarchy of controls to avoid injuries. An engineering control to apply is to always ensure you are in a well-ventilated area, this will help to avoid inhalation. In addition to this you can implement the use of personal protective equipment such as wearing gloves of an impervious material which can be purchased at your local Bunnings Warehouse, and if using in large quantities wear safety goggles. It is also best to wear appropriate clothing that covers your arms to avoid it coming into contact with your skin. Once you have finished with your White King Bleach always wash your hands immediately, and dispose of any gloves you may have been wearing for protection.
If bleach gets into your eyes immediately hold the eyes open and wash with fresh running water, and consult a doctor. If bleach comes into contact with your skin, remove contaminated clothing and wash skin thoroughly with soap and running water. If you accidentally ingest the bleach obtain immediate medical attention.


If you need further information on White King Bleach consult the safety data sheet from the manufacturer’s website

Written by Phillip Pavlidis

Methylated Spirit – a Lethal Buzz

Alcohol is expensive is Australia. Having a quick look at the Dan Murphy’s webpage, a 700ml bottle of vodka will set you back almost $40(Dan Murphy’s, 2017). It starts to get pretty expensive when considering you only work part time after school at McDonald’s, earning $17.29 an hour (Indeed, 2017) and needing to get your buzz on every Friday and Saturday night. There has to be a more cost effective option, right?
How about Methylated Spirit or “Metho”? A bottle of Smirnoff Red Vodka contains 37.5% alcohol, costing almost $40 (Dan Murphy’s, 2017) versus a bottle of Diggers Methylated Spirit containing 95% ethanol and costing approximately $3.50 a bottle (Bunnings, 2017). Maybe add a little Coca-cola to kill the taste, right?
Think again. According to the Material Safety Data Sheet Methylated Spirit (2016) “ingestion can lead to headache, dizziness, dullness, gastric disorder, nausea and central nervous system depression. Large doses may cause severe intoxication, tremors, convulsions, drowsiness, blurred vision, coma, respiratory arrest, unconsciousness and death”. Drinking Methylated Spirits doesn’t sound like such a smart idea.
Methylated Spirits is a common commercial grade solvent. It has varied usages including as a general cleaning substance in tile and glass industries on finished products and in the printing and painting industries to clean equipment and remove paint (Sydney Solvents, 2017).
It doesn’t sound like something you’d like to ingest, does it?
But in saying this, what if your mate hadn’t read the above and had ingested Methylated Spirit?ķ According to the Material Safety Data Sheet Methylated Spirit (2016), you should contact a doctor or poisons information centre immediately and if the person is conscience, have them drink plenty of water and do no induce vomiting.

Written by Damon Portelli


Bunnings. (2017). Diggers Methylated Spirit. Retrieved from

Dan Murphies. (2017). Smirnoff Red Label Vodka 700mL. Retrieved from;jsessionid=AED3C852F4F5E3D7744B883206F25BFC.ncdlmorasp1301?bmUID=lTSgTH.&bmUID=lTS6jCU

Indeed. (2017). McDonald’s Salaries in Australia. Retrieved from’s/salaries

Perrigo. (2016). Material Safety Data Sheet Methylated Spirit. Retrieved from

Sydney Solvents. (2017). Industrial Methylate Spirit (IMS) – Sydney Solvents. Retrieved from