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

Is There A Silent Killer In Your Home? – The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

As winter approaches, you might go out and buy a new coat, stock up on blankets, get your hot water bottle ready and look forward to sipping hot chocolates as you prepare for the cold months.

But do you check that your gas heating system is working correctly?

Commonly a faulty gas heating system is to blame for leaking carbon monoxide in the home with detrimental consequences. Carbon monoxide fumes may go completely undetected due to the gas being odourless, tasteless and colourless; so, when you crank up the heating on those cold nights, silent leaking fumes may cause you to lose consciousness and it’s too late.

It is likely that carbon monoxide already exists in your home in harmless small amounts occurring from the use of a stove top, barbeque, fireplace and even the family car. However, it is when a build-up of carbon monoxide occurs that the high concentration of toxic gas in an enclosed space can be fatal. Carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to long term health complications with organ failure, brain damage or accidental death. Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include vomiting, poor concentration, dizziness and nausea.

Carbon monoxide poisoning within the home can be avoided by completing some simple steps:

  • Installation of carbon monoxide detectors will help to detect the fumes that you can’t otherwise see or smell. An alarm will sound when carbon monoxide is detected at high levels and it is important to evacuate everyone from the home immediately.
  • Have your gas heating system checked by a licenced gas fitter or plumber every two years to inspect and service the system.
  • Clean and unblock the flu or chimney of your fireplace every year.
  • Check all other potential sources of carbon monoxide in your home and ensure they are all working correctly

A gas heating system can be replaced, but your family can’t be. Act now before it’s too late.

Are Spot-on Flea Treatments safe for Humans?

If you’re like me, you hate seeing your pet suffer the pain and discomfort of fleas, not to mention the fact that they bite humans too! Many vets (including the telegenic TV ones) recommend spot-on treatments sold at vet practices or veterinary specialist stores. Spot-on treatments are also widely promoted on social media so the provision of sound safety information on these platforms is of paramount importance.
I decided to road test Advantage which is a popular brand (and the one I use on my cats). Advantage contains Imidacloprid and benzyl alcohol and is classified as a hazardous substance and a dangerous good when transported by sea or air.

Flea treatments

The Safety Data Sheet indicates that Imidacloprid is harmful if inhaled or swallowed and may be irritating to the eyes. However, the instruction leaflet in the Advantage packaging does not advise that protective gloves need to be worn “under normal conditions of use” which is presumed to mean for its domestic use. The labelling contains a caution to keep out of reach of children, to read safety directions and warns that it is “for animal treatment only”.
Applying Advantage is a fiddly business given the small size of the tube and the difficulty in simultaneously holding the cat still, parting the fur to find a small patch of skin and deftly squeezing the liquid contents onto her neck. It’s quite difficult to avoid getting the product on your fingers. It is therefore extremely important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after use.
The liquid is viscous. You often notice that the patch of fur around the squeeze site becomes damp and remains like this for some time. It may therefore be advisable to apply the product when children are out of the house or asleep. I often find myself needing to wash my hands several times after applying the product.

Care is needed in disposing of Advantage as it is classified as an environmentally hazardous substance.

P-phenylenediamine PPD

P-phenylenediamine or PPD is a chemical component found in many hair dyes that are used both in salons and for home use. These hair dyes usually come in two bottles, one containing the PPD dye and the other containing the developer or oxidizer.
PPD is a known skin sensitizer and has been found to cause many severe allergic reactions including redness, rashes, sores, burning sensations, itching and headaches. There have also been some rare cases of permanent hair loss and one case of death due to a severe allergic reaction following exposure. This chemical may also be a possible carcinogen after oxidisidisation increasing the possibility of developing certain types of cancer.

According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the best ways to avoid exposure are:
• Avoid dying your hair all together
• Reading Labels and looking for the following chemical names: p-phenylenediamine, para-phenylenediamine, 4-aminoaniline; 1,4-benzenediamine; p-diaminobenzene;1,4-diaminobenzene; 1,4-phenylene diamine
• Salon workers who are exposed hair dyes on a regular basis should wear protective gear, including gloves and protective wear on the face.

By Sarah Newcombe


Berriedale-Johnson, M. (2017). The dangers of PPD (paraphenylenediamine) hair dye. [online] Michelle’s blog. Available at: [Accessed 24 Aug. 2017].

David Suzuki Foundation. (2017). Coal Tar Dyes. [online] Available at:—coal-tar-dyes/ [Accessed 24 Aug. 2017].

Safe Cosmetics. (2017). P-Phenylenediamine – Safe Cosmetics. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Aug. 2017].

York, A. (2017). Social Media Demographics to Inform a Better Segmentation Strategy. [online] Sprout Social. Available at: [Accessed 24 Aug. 2017].

Methyl Methacrylate

Methyl Methacrylate is a colourless and volatile liquid, having a strong fruity odour. Most often, it is used to form a polymer known as poly-methyl methacrylate (PMMA) that is widely used in manufacturing crowns, bridges, acrylic dentures, and other dental products (Leggat & Kedjarune, 2003).

Dental laboratory technicians work directly by handling this monomer while manufacturing dental products. They could absorb this directly through their skin or by inhaling this volatile chemical that spreads throughout in dental premises (Gosavi et al., 2010).

There is evidence of reported adverse health effects from Methyl Methacrylate, that leads to crucial acute and chronic symptoms.

Skin: increased skin sensitivity and rash.
Eyes: increased irritation, and redness
Buccal mucosa: allergic reactions – inflammation, irritation, burning sensation; changed properties of saliva, and presence of micro-organisms in mouth.
Tightness in chest, wheezing, cough, occupational asthma (due to particles in air) and shortness of breath.
Numbness, pain, and pallor (whitening of fingers), headache, lack of concentration, and lethargy.
Cardiovascular effects: Palpitations, chest discomfort, etc.
Nasal symptoms
Reduced lung function
Carcinogenicity (still unclear)

(Leggat & Kedjarune, 2003; Gosavi et al., 2010; Ivkovic et al., 2013; Ataolah & Andre, 1998).

Methyl Methacrylate


Shield with trimming to protect from fumes

Risk control measures are:
1. Pre-screening at-risk employees by taking history of systemic diseases.
2. Optimum ventilation in laboratory rooms. Using high-performance air purification systems, which could be practicable.
3. Usage of air cleaning solutions, containing charcoals that absorbs chemical compounds from air and minimize its levels.
4. Methyl Methacrylate is subject to control by COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) regulations. The Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) is:
• Long-term (8 hour) exposure = 50 parts per million (ppm)
• Short-term exposure = 100 ppm.
5. Methyl Methacrylate tends to settle at ground level (being heavier than air). The laboratory control systems to monitor its saturation should be in workplace.
(Leggat & Kedjarune, 2003; Gosavi et al., 2010; Ivkovic et al., 2013; Ataolah & Andre, 1998).

Posted by Kundan Andre

Ataolah, N.A. and Andre, D. (1998). Chemical Hazards in Dental Laboratories. Indoor Built Environ, 7, 146–155. doi:10.1159/000024575
Gosavi, S.S., Gosavi, S.Y., and Alla, R.K. (2010). Local and systemic effects of unpolymerised monomer. Dental Research Journal, 7(2), 82-87.
Ivkovic, N., Bozovic, D., Ristic, S., Mirjanic, V., and Jankovic, O. (2013). The residual monomer in dental acrylic resin and its adverse effects. Contemporary Materials, IV (1), 84-91. doi: 10.7251/COMEN1301084I.
Leggat, P.A. and Kedjarune, U. (2003). Toxicity of methyl methacrylate in dentistry. International Dental Journal, 53(3); 126 -131. doi:10.1111/j.1875-595X.2003.tb00736.x