Have you ever mistakenly used the air freshener as your hairspray or body mist spray? Or mistakenly grabbed your hairspray to kill that cockroach in the corner?
I have. And that’s on a good day but I was in a hurry. Imagine those days when you’re unwell and groggy, or when you have a loved one in the house who is illiterate, visually and/or mentally-challenged and children of all ages. We need to re-look at how we can make our home safe.
We may not realise it but our home is actually filled with potentially dangerous and hazardous items. We don’t realise the dangers because these are things we use almost on a daily basis. Because of this, we may get careless with their storage. Indeed, it’s a nuisance to have to cart these items from their safe place to wherever you need them.
For instance, it’s so convenient to just leave the toilet cleaner and other detergents used for the bathroom right there so that they’re just within reach when you need them.
Experts on home safety advise that all those cleaning items should be kept out of the bathroom and under lock and key, especially if you have children and challenged adults in the house. But even ordinary people can be at risk.
Imagine this scenario: Where do you think people go to cry when they’ve heard bad news? Most will run to the bathroom. It’s the best place to head to for some privacy while you deal with the situation.
A friend confided to me that there was a time when she had such bad news that she felt her world had ended. She felt so broken that she wanted to die. It was just a thought, she said. As she was crying on the floor, she saw a bottle of bleach behind the toilet. It crossed her mind to drink that bleach to end her life. She held the opened bottle and almost drank it. But the fumes and smell were so strong that she gagged, capped the bottle and came to her senses.
How easy and convenient it is for people to harm themselves! People can think stupid thoughts under duress. But we can cut down that risk by eliminating the threats.
Ingestion of these hazardous products isn’t the only way they can harm you. Inhalation and contact with them, especially in their undiluted form, can cause damage too. Always wash your hands after coming into contact with them. If you’ve had a spill and some splashed on you, use plenty of water to wash it off.
You should be careful with anything that contains bleach or ammonia. We always think of detergents but other items such as hair colouring or perming products contain these too. So if you plan to do this in your own bathroom, ensure you have adequate ventilation to dissipate the fumes. Remember to also take frequent breaks to get fresh air every now and then.
Some hazardous household cleaners and insect repellents come in very cute colours, shapes and sizes. Keep these away from children who could mistake them for sweets.
I remember being fascinated by packets of bright, colourful sugar-like mothballs sold at supermarkets. Some were shaped like flowers and look delicious. Fortunately, these were always stashed at the detergent section of the shop. But when you buy them, where do you store them?
Mothballs, like many other insecticides, are poisonous and can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, seizure and coma. The bad smelling ones would deter you from handling it for long. But there are those that don’t have strong smell. Some have fragrance added to make them more appealing.
Of late, some liquid laundry detergents are packed into cute little packets. They’re so convenient to use but can be mistaken for sweets. Some room deodorisers resemble little packets of delicious jelly, while some toilet bowl tablets look like wrapped candies. Many liquid substances can look like apple juice or flavoured drinks.
BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY
So what should we do, especially when we have children and adults who can’t tell the difference? First, if you have to buy them, keep them safe and out of sight, under lock and key if possible.
Always keep everything in their original packaging. It’s very tempting to re-use and recycle certain containers because they’re too nice to throw away. You’d have to remember that certain substances must be stored in glass (clear or coloured) and never in plastic because it can be so corrosive that it melts the plastic. Even if you diligently label these bottles, there’s still that danger of it being associated with food.
Always read the labels and instructions of all these items, especially the “caution” part of it. It would tell you what to do in case of emergency. Also, take that extra step to memorise and save the phone numbers of Poison Control, nearest hospital’s emergency department and even ambulance service.