Monthly Archives: August 2018

Un-clogging your drain with a punch

Ever stood over your kitchen sink watching the water drain slowly?
The easiest and most common method of unclogging kitchen sinks is through chemical means. One common household drain cleaner used is Mr Muscle Drano Ultra Gel (liquid). Available for purchased at any supermarket or hardware chain and usually stored in the cupboard under the kitchen sink.

The ingredients of Mr Muscle includes; water, sodium hydroxide, lauryl dimethyl amine oxide, lauric acid and potassium hydroxide. These are all common cleaning agents that can be found in a variety of household cleaning products, detergents and personal care products. However, if used unsafely, this product can pack a severe punch!

Mr Muscle Drano Ultra gel is a yellow liquid foam, with a bleach odour that can cause severe skin burns and eyes damage if inhaled or absorbed by the skin. It is very important to read the safety directions on the label before use, use only as directed and use any personal protective equipment as recommended. When mixing or using Mr Muscle wear eye protection and protective gloves, avoid contact with skin and eyes and ensure there is adequate ventilation to avoid inhalation of mist or vapours.

Should one the above occur the following first aid measures are to be followed;
If Mr Muscle comes into contact with skin, immediately remove all contaminated clothing, rinse skin with water and wash clothing before use.
Should it come into contact with your eye, rinse cautiously with water for several minutes.
For further information on safe storage and handling refer to chemical Safety Data Sheet (SDS) online.

So, although Mr Muscle can pack a punch when it comes to un-clogging your kitchen sink, please use this product with caution to ensure that it is the grease and fat clogging your sink that is knocked out, not you!

Submitted by
Alexandra Gazis

Keeping Our Air Clean – Tips to Reduce Carbon Monoxide Exposure

What if I told you that there was a colourless and odourless gas, that we may be exposed to every day that can cause fatigue, dizziness, nausea, headaches, or worst-case scenario, death?

This gas is carbon monoxide (CO). It can be toxic at high levels and long-term exposure can have a negative impact on human health.

CO is formed when a carbon fuel does not combust or burn fully. There are natural sources such as volcanoes and fires, plus human made sources that we are all exposed to such as:

  • Vehicle emissions (contribute to most of the CO in the air)
  • Household appliances, such as gas heaters
  • Wood burners or fireplaces
  • Gas stoves
  • Water heaters
  • Clothes dryers

CO can be dangerous as it attaches itself to haemoglobin, and in doing so restricts the amount of oxygen in our blood. Several deaths have recently occurred in Australia from CO poisoning due to faulty gas heaters. This lead to increased awareness of the dangers of CO and education to the community on maintaining safe gas heating in the home.

What can we do as a community?

The Australian Government has strategies in place to reduce carbon monoxide, which is a growing concern as the population booms. There are several actions we can all take to reduce carbon monoxide in our air such as:

  • Choosing a fuel-efficient vehicle
  • Ensure your vehicle is regularly serviced
  • Smokey vehicle? – make sure you get it fixed!
  • Ride a bike, walk or take public transport where possible
  • Avoid using a wood heater at home, but if you do use small, dry and untreated logs
  • Ensure all household appliances are in good working order
  • Install a CO alarm on appliances

If we all pitch in as a community, we can reduce carbon monoxide emissions!

Contributed by Rebecca Webster

Rental Inspections, the hidden risk

So it’s been 6 months since your last rental inspection and you and your share house buddies had promised yourselves it would be different this time. But alas, like last time and the time before that, inspection day is tomorrow and it’s going to take an all nighter to clean up the joint!

The question isn’t what cleans environmentally friendly, but what cleans quickly and effectively. So you turn to the old faithful ‘Domestos’. What you know from your experience using Domestos is that the kitchen and shower areas that have a tinge of yellow and orange and an indescribable film will be shiny in no time and the tick of approval from the landlord means another 6 months without hassle.

What you may not know are risks associated with exposure to the bleach chemicals that make up this product.

Domestos is a readily available household cleaning product, that contains the chemicals sodium hypochlorite and sodium hydroxide, that may be harmful if it comes into contact with your skin or eyes or if you ingest or inhale it.

But your question is how do I still pass this inspection?

Well, the answer is simple, follow these few steps and not only will your house sparkle, the landlord will be fooled to thinking this was normal!

  • Ensure that you wear protection on your hands and other areas of skin that may be at risk of contact whilst you are cleaning. This reduces the risk of skin irritation.
  • Ensure the areas that you are working in are well ventilated, open windows or switch on fans to reduce risk of inhalation
  • Consider the use of eye protection to reduce the risk of the product having contact with you eyes, which can lead to redness or irritation.
  • Dilute the cleaning product as per the guidelines, this assists to reduce the risk if exposed
  • If skin/eye contact, ingestion or inhalation occur and you have concerns contact the Poisons Information Centre 131 126.

So the cleanings done, you have earned your share of the Uber eats – but please make sure you wash your hands with soap and running water to ensure you are not at risk of ingestion!

Better still, get that cleaning roster on the fridge and grab a collection of alternate products to eliminate the risk completely!

Written by Rachel Treeby

How safe is your Medicine Cabinet?

So many of us leave our Panadol on the kitchen bench, or our hay fever tablets on the sink in the bathroom. Or we have the cupboard in the kitchen or bathroom overflowing with medications of all descriptions, both in date and out of date. But have we ever stopped to think about who might be able to reach these medications and accidently take them. Every day in New South Wales, 27 children under the age of 5 are accidently exposed to medications. And over the course of a year, 250 children are hospitalised with accidental poisonings. Of these accidental poisonings, 75% of them occur in the family home (Bell et al).
Children are more likely to be poisoned as they are always exploring the world around them and they are less likely to be aware of the danger associated with medications and other poisons. Young children also tend to pick things and put them straight in their mouths.
So what can we do to prevent these accidents at home?
• It is vital that all medications are stored in cupboards 1.5m off the ground (or higher)
• Never take medications out of the original packaging and store them in different containers.
• Try and teach children that the medicine cabinet is only for the adults to touch.
• Out of date medications are also a poisoning risk. Regularly check the expiry date on all medications and dispose of old or unwanted medication in a responsible manner. Such as taking it to your local pharmacist.
• Never call medication lollies. This gives children the impression that they are something fun to be eaten. (Poisons Information Centre, 2018)
If poisoning is suspected and it is an emergency please dial 000 immediately. The poisons information number is 131126. It is important to remember to never induce vomiting if poisoning is suspected.
By taking a few simple precautions we can minimise the risk to children from accidental poisoning by medications in the home.

Contributed by Amanda Robinson

Bell JC, Bentley JP, Downie C et al. (2018). Accidental pharmacological poisonings in young children: a population based study in three settings. Clinical Toxicology, 2018: 1-8
NSW Poisons Information Centre.

Multiplying the Mercury in compact fluorescent lights and your health

Compact fluorescent lights, this common household product, used everywhere to light up our homes, workplaces, shopping centres and supermarkets, contains mercury. The good news is that the mercury level in a unit of the compact fluorescent light (CFL), once broken, is considered to be low (Department of Environment and Energy) particularly when compared to the now outdated mercury thermometers. Short term exposure which is relevant to the common household user dealing with CFL does not constitute a significant risk (Department of Environment and Energy). But multiply the amount of CFL units you potentially deal with as part of your work and the likelihood of encountering a broken CFL unit; long term, there could be some health issues if exposed to mercury.

Why don’t you want mercury exposure?

Mercury exposure can lead to tremors, mood and memory changes, vision, breathing  and neuromuscular changes, and performance deficits (OSHA & NCBI). So simply put, it affects your brain and changes behaviours and bodily functions.

Actions you can take to reduce exposure are:

  • Have a non spreading clean up plan – don’t use brooms, use a specific vacuum cleaner to contain mercury so it does not become airborne.
  • Ask your employer for educational training on safe handling, cleaning and health effects
  • Isolate the workplace, where CFLs are handled and recycled in one contained area away from the rest of the workplace, toilets, break room and admin areas.
  • Check if your floor surface is not carpet as carpet retain dust
  • Check if there is enough ventilation to disperse the mercury vapour from the crushing machines in your recycling facility
  • Check if there is air monitoring in the workplace to ensure mercury particles are not readily airborne from your operations.
  • Wear your PPE, especially respiratory protection
  • Consider wearing disposable or reusable protective clothing so you don’t take your work wear home
  • Ask your employer for medical monitoring of your lungs and kidney, eyes, skin and mercury measurement in urine.


Submitted by

Chris Lee





Button down before it costs you your child

Button batteries may sound harmless but in the hands of your child, they can be deadly. Around 20 young children are admitted to emergency departments in Australia each week due to a button battery related injury. This can be extremely stressful and upsetting for parents and their young ones.

Young children can’t help but be curious about their surroundings. They will explore their world by putting anything and everything in their mouths. Button batteries are the size of a small coin and they are attractive to young children as they are bright and shiny. If they get their fingers on this, they can swallow it in a matter of seconds!

If swallowed, button batteries can be extremely harmful and cause irreversible damage such as severe internal burns and bleeding (due to a chemical reaction) if not removed within 2 hours.

Do you have remote controls, electronic toys, calculators and watches in your house? If so, it’s time to button down to help keep your child safe using these simple steps:

  • Buy products/toys that don’t require button batteries or look for products that require a screwdriver to open the battery compartment
  • Keep devices that contain batteries on high shelves out of reach
  • Keep spare batteries confined in containers and out of reach of children
  • Throw away unused batteries safely outside the house
  • Spread the word to friends and family, particularly those likely to babysit, about button battery safety

If a battery is missing from its device and you notice your child is experiencing chest pain, coughing or vomiting (with traces of blood), decreased appetite, abdominal pain and general discomfort, call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 immediately.

Button down around the house and think button battery safety so your child can explore safely!

Submitted by
Mandy Lam

The price of beauty

Straight hair has become an increasingly popular trend. Chemical hair straightening and more recently Keratin hair straightening is a popular means to tame the frizz. You as hairdressers are exposed to these chemicals repeatedly throughout the day every day as they treat one client after the other. Have you ever stopped to think about the price of your client’s beauty? Not the amount the pay but the risk it poses to your health.

It is well known that over the years that formaldehyde has received a bad wrap, several products were discontinued due to their high risk.  Formaldehyde free products have recently been marketed as safer as they are less hazardous. It has however been found that manufacturers are substituting formaldehyde with other chemicals. These are however not necessarily less hazardous. Chemicals that have been substituted include:  Methylene Glycol, Formalin, Methylene Oxide, Paraform, Formic Aldehyde, Methanal, Oxomethena, Oxomethylene or CAS Number 50-00-0 (OSHA, 2018)

Although the ingredients don’t contain formaldehyde and sound like they are ‘formaldehyde free’, when Methylene Glycol is mixed with water and exposed to high heat, formaldehyde is released into the air. This is not only inhaled by the customer but you, the stylists/ hairdressers.

Formaldehyde and similar chemicals are predominantly absorbed through the respiratory system. Even in low doses, formaldehyde poses a risk to adverse health affects. These include both acute and chronic illness. Complaints raised by hairdressers include: burning eyes and throat, watery eyes, a dry mouth, reduced or loss of smell, numb fingers, dermatitis and epiglottitis. formaldehyde has also been linked to several cancers with high levels of exposure which is most likely to effect the hairdressers (Boyer et al., 2013).

There are many ways that you can product yourself and other employees. Salon owners should implement the following hazard reduction techniques including: checking the ingredients of the product to ensure no chemicals listed above are included, ensuring employees are aware of the risks and understand data sheets It is important that there is adequate ventilation, opening a door or putting on a fan is not sufficient. Hairdressers should also reduce the heat from the hair dryer directed onto the chemical and personal protective equipment such as gloves and a mask should be provided to all hairdressers in the salon. It’s not too late to start protecting our workforce (OSHA, 2018).


Boyer, I. J., Heldreth, B., Bergfeld, W. F., Belsito, D. V., Hill, R. A., Klaassen, C., D, . . . Anderson, A. F. (2013). Amended Safety Assessment of Formaldehyde and Methylene Glycol as Used in Cosmetics. International Journal of Toxicology, 31(4).

OSHA (2018). Hair Salons: Facts about Formaldehyde in Hair Products. Safety and Health Topics.
Retrieved from:

Submitted by
Kerry Jechilevsky



A bit of housework won’t hurt you! Or could it?

I can’t recall the number of times I have heard my mum extoll the virtues (provide a lecture) of the importance of regularly cleaning your oven.  More than once, she has used the rationale that an unclean oven is hazardous, explaining potential fire and smoke risks to both the cook as well as the food.  But what are there hazards when we DO clean our ovens?

The main ingredient in commercial oven cleaning products is sodium hydroxide, commonly known as caustic soda or lye.  Sodium hydroxide is a highly corrosive chemical that can cause severe skin burns and eye damage upon contact.  It can cause serious damage to the respiratory tract if inhaled, resulting in extreme pain to the nose and throat.  And although unlikely when properly used and stored, if the product is ingested it can cause corrosion to the gastrointestinal tract.  Think about your pets and children!

Other common chemicals in oven cleaners include Diethylene glycol monobutyl ether and 2- Aminoethanol, which are classified as irritant chemicals and cause eye and skin irritation and add to the effects of the sodium hydroxide. As oven cleaners are aerosols they contain Butane gas, which is extremely flammable and may explode if it gets too hot.

The good news is that all of these harmful risks can be controlled.  Now that you are aware of the hazards, you can use the hierarchy of controls below to determine the risk control method that works best for you.  You could:

  • eliminate all the hazards by using a natural solution that doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals, such as vinegar, bi-carb soda and water.
  • substitute by using an alternative non-toxic commercial product.
  • Implement administration controls such as following the directions for use and storage e.g. Use in a well ventilated area, store appropriately.
  • Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) – long gloves, eye protection, a suitable face mask and protective clothing.


Be Safe, Be Clean and enjoy your smoke free dinner!

Submitted by Sally Hibbert

Managing patients who have been administered chemotherapy

Administration of chemotherapy may be in several ways, such as, intravenously or orally. The chemotherapy treatment will expose the caregiver with potential exposure to side effects up to seven days post administration. Guidelines have been provided from South Australia (SA) Health on management of waste post chemotherapy treatment for the caregiver, to ensure that the caregiver health is not compromised.

The waste products from the body processes means that the chemical is expelled via the hepatic and renal systems as well as through other organs, such as the skin and the gastrointestinal system such as vomitus.

Assess the risk

The hierarchy of risk control

All local institutions should process the hierarchy of risk control  when considering the use of chemotherapy in accordance with SA Health. The treatment exposes all workers with potential harmful side effects, that maybe immediate or long term.

Risk assessment is required on the safe management of waste products produced by patients, who have been administered with chemotherapy drugs and who will need to be nursed in a variety of locations. Where information not available, not a legal requirement as it is part of the therapeutic to provide information regarding the agent.

Examination of the hazards

To eliminate or replace this risk, is the first choice, however this is not possible. Therefore management of the waste will need to be part of a risk management process by isolating the individual and using appropriate and separate waste bins that will be treated differently by all, and are easily identifiable.

As patients’ waste needs to be managed by caregivers, they need to be provided with protection. Policies are created based on SA Health protocols on the reduction of exposure by providing single use personal protective equipment, such as eye glasses, purple gloves and gowns, all of which will be used on all encounters for staff to protect themselves. Ongoing training, and availability to the latest information should be available and known how to access it all times.

Submitted by Cobie George


Latex can act as potential threat not just to health workers but multiple other occupational workers like those working in hair salons, food warehouses, laundromats, toy factories, glove manufacturing units, laboratories and even affect in day to day domestic settings while dishwashing etcetera. Latex in itself has an organic origin and is extracted from trees, shrubs but the addition of certain chemicals like mercaptobenzothiazole, thiurams and carbamates with the intent of making it a stronger, stretchable and durable product acts as the hazard or in other words primary source of the allergic reactions (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 2018).
Research has also found that nearly 50% of the people having Latex Allergy can also have allergies to food items like tomatoes, avocados, nuts, bananas (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, 2018). Allergy to latex can be either triggered by direct contact of latex with skin or indirect contact through inhaling airborne latex particles. Symptoms can range from rashes, blisters to runny nose, itchy eyes and throat. Asthmatic symptoms like coughing, wheezing can also be encountered in some. Severe reactions can lead to swelling of lips, face and the airways (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology,2014).
The good news is that we can avoid it by replacing latex in settings to non-latex products (vinyl or synthetic). Other precautions include handwashing after glove removal, vacuum to clear dust and periodic screening for allergies.
Having awareness around the fact that repeated exposures can worsen the severity of episodes and cautiously carrying epinephrine pens to avoid any emergency episodes might be some other helpful tools. Important message here is to let your doctor know before a procedure (if you are sensitive) and consult an allergist or immunologist for an expert advise. Go latex-free and keep safe!!
To know more about allergy testing visit

Submitted by Priyanka Bhat