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 www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergy-testing/allergy-testing

Submitted by Priyanka Bhat

79,000 children harmed by a common household product

79,000 children were harmed by pesticides containing butane, propane and other chemicals within reach of children (EPA, 2018).
The safety data sheet of a commonly used household pesticide in Australia, Mortein, states butane and propane as the larger ingredients and identifies the product as flammable, and causing skin corrosion/ irritation (rb, 2016). In the United States of America five sudden deaths had occurred due to the inhalation of nonhalogenated hydrocarbons including butane and propane (Rohrig, 1997).
Children can be exposed to butane, propane and other harmful ingredients in pesticides either directly during play and exploration because of storing pesticides within reach in unlocked cabinets or counters following use or indirectly after entering a room where the pesticide was recently sprayed or by consuming uncovered food or using utensils which came in contact with pesticides.

Better Health Victoria (2018) advises consumers to:
When deciding to use pesticides to
• Eliminate or reduce the use of pesticides if it’s unrealistic to keep your house pest free
• Substitute the use of harmful pesticides with safer non-chemical-based control measures and if use of chemical pesticides is necessary use the least toxic, the least amount needed and the exact type necessary for the type of pest you’re targeting
• Obtain the safety data sheet for the pesticide you intend to use
When storing and handling pesticides to
• Store the pesticides in their original containers in a locked cabinet away from food stuff or utensils and follow manufacturer’s safety data sheet
• Use gloves, masks and/or other protective equipment as directed by the manufacturer when using their product
• When using the product, do not eat, drink or smoke
• Wash your hands following usage
Be ready for an emergency
• Emergency 000
• Victorian Poison Information Centre: 13 11 26
• Nearest hospital emergency unit

Contributed by Akram Bekzada

Better Health Victoria. (2018). Pest control in the home. Retrieved from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/pest-control-in-the-home

EPA. (2018). Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Pesticides’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/pesticides-impact-indoor-air-quality

rb. (2016). Safety Data Sheet: Mortein Fast Knockdown Export Aerosol. Retrieved from http://www.rb-msds.com.au/uploadedFiles/pdf/Mortein%20Fast%20Knockdown%20Export%20Aerosol-v6.2-30533.pdf

Rohrig, T. P. (1997). Sudden Death Due to Butane Inhalation. The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 18(3), 299-302.

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 http://growchoice.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Choice-Dicamba-500-April-2015.pdf

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: http://www.smithnephew.com/documents/anz/safety%20data%20sheets%202017/sds07rev0%2020122016%20skin%20prep%20wipes.pdf

Rechochem Safety Data Sheet, Diggers Methylated Spirits, 20 February 2017.  Retrieved via: http://www.recochem.com.au/files/downloads/Methylated_Spirits_v7.pdf

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.