Monthly Archives: August 2019

The War Against Household Moths: Winning, but at what cost?

With the colder season finishing, many of us are returning winter woollies and blankets to the linen cupboard.
For many, there is an ongoing battle against the pesky moths that love to eat our expensive cashmere over summer. Mothballs are often the deterrent of choice, but mothballs are not only hazardous to our tiny winged enemies.

Mothballs are white or multi-coloured, marble-sized solids, which convert from a solid directly to a gas which is toxic to moths.
Mothballs contain naphthalene and/or paradichlorobenzene as the active ingredients. Naphthalene, made from crude oil, is used for its pest repellent and insecticide qualities. Paradichlorobenzene is produced as a fumigant insecticide.

  • Both chemicals are also hazardous to humans, when inhaled, ingested or if there is skin contact.
  • Signs of inhalant exposure include headaches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, eye irritation, and respiratory irritation.
  • Exposure to the skin can result in a burning sensation. Children’s skin absorbs the chemicals easily.
  • Ingestion of mothballs can result in diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain and painful urination.
  • Naphthalene, when ingested, can cause haemolytic anaemia, and liver and kidney damage.
  • When broken down in the body, naphthalene can affect both the lungs and the eyes before being excreted.

The World Health Organisation has concluded that both paradichlorobenzene and naphthalene are probably carcinogenic, based on animal studies.

Children are most at risk of poisoning as mothballs look like lollies and are often accessible to small and curious hands. Globally every year, thousands of children require medical treatment for mothball poisoning, with some dying and others having to live with the side effects permanently.

This year make your own insect repellent sachets, with lavender, cedar chips, peppermint oil, cloves and rosemary to eliminate the moths and the hazards to you and your kids.

If you believe your child has mothball poisoning, call Poisons Information on 13 11 26.

Contributed by Louise Balston

Methylisothiazolinone – hard to pronounce and even harder on you

Methylisothiazolinone, or MI, is an industrial biocide found in paints, glues and cleaning products to stop the growth of bacteria– but have you ever stopped to consider this chemical might be found in more than16% of products you use at home every day?
Despite its origins, MI is one of the most commonly used cosmetic preservatives on the Australian market and families may be unknowingly using products containing MI every day. Common products, even those labelled as “gentle” and “sensitive”, are known to contain MI such as baby wipes, shampoo, dishwashing liquid and laundry detergent.

So why is it a problem?
MI is approved by the Therapeutic Goods Association to be used in commercial products if the concentration is less than 0.0015%. The small dose may seem harmless, but in 2013 MI was labelled as “contact allergen of the year” with reports of allergic reactions tripling in just two short years. MI allergies are common and even in small amounts exposure may lead to significant allergic reactions, skin sensitisation and in extreme cases may lead to chemical burns and lung toxicity in high doses.


“So what can I do to help my family”, I hear you say?
If someone in your family has an unexplained rash, a simple check of your household products can help identify if any items they use contain MI. If you find an MI product they may have come in contact with, stop using it immediately and see if you can replace it with a MI-free alternative. Let your family know about the risks of MI and remember when shopping to check the product ingredients to make sure you’re choosing an MI-free option for your family. If skin irritations still persist, please contact your GP for advice.

Contributed by Courtney Talbot

The hidden dangers of spring cleaning

The temperature in Brisbane is starting to rise, signalling that parties, barbeques, and Spring is just around the corner. It’s easy to get into the ‘Spring clean’ mood by renovating or freshening up the exterior of your home. Most people are aware of the use of asbestos in post-war homes, but not everyone realises that asbestos can be still be found in homes built or renovated before 1990.

Using power tools like electric sanders or high-pressure cleaners on asbestos containing materials can be dangerous and is prohibited in Queensland. The force from these tools can break apart the material, sending asbestos fibres into the air and surrounding environment. These microscopic fibres are invisible to the naked eye, and can become lodged in the lungs once inhaled (Queensland Government, 2016). Asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer are all potential health effects linked to exposure.

In the last six years, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland responded to 33 events involving high pressure cleaning of asbestos containing materials. Homeowners in Queensland can expect fines up to $10,000 and clean-up costs can reach $50,000 if neighbouring properties are contaminated. (Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, 2019)

If you can’t identify the material used, you can pay to have it professionally tested. If testing isn’t an option, it is best to assume that asbestos may be present.

Some simple safety measures are:
– Avoid disturbing any materials that may contain asbestos. Undamaged and undisturbed, asbestos containing materials are generally safe.
– Don’t use powered equipment on asbestos containing materials
– Apply a fungicide and sealant, and talk to your local roof restoration, paint or hardware store for advice on how to look after your home
– Consider having any asbestos containing materials professionally replaced

Remember, next time you are in the mood to freshen up your home, take the time to check for asbestos containing materials. If in doubt, assume asbestos is present and seek further advice. Call 13 QGOV (13 74 68) or consult www.asbestos.qld.gov.au for more advice, practical guidance, and resources.

Contributed by Matthew Hess

References:
Queensland Government. (2016). Asbestos: A guide for minor renovation. Retrieved from https://www.asbestos.qld.gov.au/sites/default/files/asbestos-home-renovators-trades-guide.pdf?v=1551837789
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. (2019). High-pressure water blaster used on asbestos roof. Retrieved from https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/injury-prevention-safety/alerts/incident-alerts/2019/high-pressure-water-blaster-used-on-asbestos-roof

The dangerous effects and hazards of mobile phone batteries

While using your mobile phone may be a daily activity that is not given a second thought – how many of us have stopped to consider the hazards associated with the internal makeup of the phone itself – specifically the phone’s battery?

Many of us have heard of controversial power walls using lithium ion batteries spontaneously exploding – exposing households to risk of physical harm, however how many of us have stopped and thought about the lithium ion battery that is neatly contained within our cellular devices? While the batteries within our phones are typically small and compact in size – they still hold the potential to unleash a large amount of harmful energy. Lithium ion is useful due to its ability to store large amounts of energy and slowly release that energy for use – however lithium ion’s strength is also it’s weakness – that is, when lithium ion does not release its energy slowly – its risk of exploding or igniting increases – transforming your phone rather, into a missile or small fire. It is also important to note that the fumes released from a burning lithium battery may cause lung irritation if exposed.

Causes of battery malfunction may include:
1. Overheating;
2. Short circuiting the battery – i.e. by submerging the battery in water or dropping the battery;
3. Piercing the battery;
4. Poor battery quality – i.e. not using the OEM battery designated for the phone and rather a cheap imitation.

So, in order to mitigate the risk of your phone becoming a missile or fire before you phone a friend – be sure to replace or get your battery checked out if your phone is dropped or comes into contact with water. Ensure that your phone is not exposed to extreme heats and that the correct OEM battery is purchased when replacing an old battery.

By Celeste Dennis

Hand Sanitisers: Handy or Harmful?

Ever visited a public bathroom only to find there is no soap…argh?! Should you find an alternate bathroom with soap or rely on the trusty pocket hand sanitiser?

Hand sanitisers and handwashing remove viruses and bacteria from the hands. This is turn minimises your chances of becoming ill and prevents the spread of diseases. Hand sanitisers have been proven to work more effectively in killing germs on the hands than handwashing with soap (Tamimi, Carlino, Edmonds, & Gerba, 2014). Although, there are some disadvantages associated with their use.

Most hand sanitisers contain ethanol or isopropanol, a type of alcohol (between 60-95% in concentration). If ingested, this can lead to alcohol poisoning. Symptoms include slowing down of the heart rate and breathing, low blood sugar, coma and seizures. This could be potentially fatal in young children (Reckitt Benckiser, 2016).

Hand sanitisers are also highly flammable and can cause skin irritation. They are not as effective if the hands are soiled with dirt, grease and grime. Unfortunately, hand sanitisers are not a universal killer of germs. They do not protect against some germs, including norovirus (gastro virus), salmonella (bacteria in contaminated food) and MRSA (bacteria causing skin infections) (Archer, Wood, Tizzard, Jones, & Dargan, 2007).

Investigating hand sanitisers

Therefore, if soap is not available, the following guidelines are recommended for the safe use of the trusty pocket hand sanitiser:
• Use half a teaspoon and apply to all areas of the hand including between the fingers, back of the hands and fingertips
• Wait for the hand sanitiser to dry completely before eating
• Parent or carer supervision required for use with children and adults with confusion (e.g. dementia)
• Store securely and out of reach of children
• Do not use around an open flame or heat source (e.g. stove, hand dryer or hair dryer)
• Discontinue if skin irritation occurs
• Remove excess dirt by rinsing or wiping off before use

So, finding the alternate bathroom with soap is ultimately the best option. It will keep those nasty germs away so you can enjoy good health today!

Written by Elise Meier

Bibliography
Archer, J., Wood, D., Tizzard, Z., Jones, A., & Dargan, P. (2007). Alcohol hand rubs: Hygiene and hazard. British Medical Journal, 335(7630), 1154-1155. doi:10.1136/bmj.39274.583472.AE

Reckitt Benckiser. (2016). Safety data sheet: Dettol healthy touch moisturising hand sanitiser Retrieved from http://www.rb-msds.com.au/uploadedFiles/pdf/Dettol%20Healthy%20Touch%20Moisturizing%20Hand%20Sanitizer-v4.2-D0330132.pdf

Tamimi, A., Carlino, S., Edmonds, S., & Gerba, C. (2014). Impact of an Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer Intervention on the Spread of Viruses in Homes. The Official Journal of the International Society for Food and Environmental Virology, 6(2), 140-144. doi:10.1007/s12560-014-9141-9