Category Archives: Opinion

Struggling to see? Chemical safety when vision deteriorates

Are you having difficulty reading the label on your medications? Perhaps you are having difficulty reading the instructions on the new bottle of furniture polish you purchased? How important is it to read the warning and safe use information on familiar products?
The answer is: it is very important! We take for granted our familiarity with the products we routinely buy – the Domestos in the bathroom for example. But labels have changed and accidents do happen.
For instance, did you know that labelling of hazardous chemicals have changed and this means that some of the pictures used to classify the safety of products look a little different? These pictures give us clear advice regarding the safety requirements of the substance at hand which in turn guides the precautions we should take when handling it. Are you familiar with these new pictures?
The requirement and ability to read the fine print is a task we take for granted until an emergency situation happens and the information available has the potential to save lives. Use of, and ready access to, glasses/magnifying aids are important and taking the time to read labels, especially those with safety symbols or those relating to medication dosage and type, is especially important to ensure your safety and the safety of your family.
Have no doubt “read it out!”
As we become more technologically savvy there will be better ways to support access to information for those of us with deteriorating vision, however in the meantime, having access to aids that assist us in reading fine print labels as well as an understanding of common pictures included in safety labels, is vital to ensuring correct use of a product and the safety of yourself and those around you.

Daniella Polita

Are moth balls harming me or my family?

We are all familiar with the overpowering smell of moth balls, but are they harmful to our health?

Using mothballs to protect our precious garments from clothes moths has been common practice for many years, but how much do we know about the chemicals that are used to defend our clothing and their potential impact on our health.

Mothballs are generally made up of two chemicals, either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene. Both these chemicals are solids which release a gas that is toxic to moths. To be effective they need to be placed with clothing in a sealed container so the fumes build up. Most of the exposure to these chemicals comes from breathing it into the lungs when the containers are opened or wearing clothes immediately after opening. Some chemicals may enter the body through ingestion if accidently swallowed, especially by young children.

Mothballs are believed to cause serious harm if chewed or eaten, causing a breakdown in red blood cells. In June this year, the New Zealand Ministry of Health banned the use of mothballs stating the “chemicals pose a significant health risk to the public if eaten or ingested.”(The Dominion Post, 2014). In 2011 there was a national call in Australia from medical professionals to ban the use of naphthalene in mothballs due to the risk of potential brain damage in babies (Tarnow-Mordi et al, 2011). However, mothballs are still available for purchase in Australia, but in a form that is designed to prevent them from being eaten.

If you have concerns about exposure to mothballs, you can minimise the risk to your health by:

  • Never sprinkling the contents of moth balls in closets, attics or storage areas
  • Opening containers outside and washing the clothes, letting them air before wearing
  • Using a less-toxic, safer alternative, for example cedar oil, chips or shavings


Mothballs banned from sale. (04/06/2014). The Dominion Post. Retrieved from:

New South Wales Government Health. Naphthalene in Moth Balls and Toilet Deodorant Cakes. January 2011. Retrieved from:

Tarnow-Mordi W.,Evans N., Lui K., and Darlow B. (2011). ‘Risk of brain damage in babies from naphthalene in mothballs: Call to consider a national ban.‘ Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 194, no. 3, pp. 150 – 150.

This post was prepared by Jen for the subject Screening and Monitoring in Occupational Health and Safety 2014

Seek and you shall find?

With numerous risks associated with utilising hazardous chemicals; it is important to ensure safe storage and practice to reduce the risk of harm to employees and the environment.

Material Safety data sheets (MSDS) are essential to safety in the workplace with their comprehensive information on hazardous chemicals. Provided by the supplier to companies who purchase them directly; what happens in the cases where small to medium enterprises (SME) purchase these chemicals from wholesalers?

I decided to put it to the test; to determine how easy is it to obtain MSDS and to determine whether wholesalers ensure that the purchaser is aware of the potential risks and hazards. To my surprise there is no excuse from SMEs not to obtain this information; that is if they seek it.

Acetone, a solvent used in many industries and professions for cleaning and wiping surfaces and equipment, can be easily purchased from the local hardware store. There are risks due to its flammable properties and it being an irritant. Easily absorbed through the skin, lungs or ingested, acetone can cause nausea, headaches and even respiratory failure (Bradberry, 2007).

On entering a large hardware franchise I proceeded to purchase 4 litres of Acetone and as I would purchase a loaf of bread from the supermarket, there were no questions or comments. On a separate incident I asked a worker if the MSDS was available for the acetone product, swiftly she accessed the intranet system and printed it for me. In searching the same product on the online store, the MSDS is available, but only by clicking on an additional product information tab (Recochem Inc., 2011).

MSDS for chemical products bought from local hardware stores and online are easily accessible and easily missed if not requested. This post hopes to increase awareness of seeking these MSDS by SMEs to increase workplace health and safety; as if you seek, you will find.



 Bradberry. S. (2007). Acetone. Medicine, 35 (11). doi:10.1016/j.mpmed.2007.08.012

 Recochem Inc. (2011). Material safety data sheet: Acetone. Retrieved from 

This post was written by Benjamin for the subject Screening and Monitoring in Occupational Health and  Safety 2014