First aid for chemical exposure
Poisons are substances that cause harm when you ingest them, breathe them in or they come into contact with your skin or eyes. Even if you are extremely careful and make sure your chemicals are stored out of reach, exposure can still happen. If it does, your national poison centre is there to help you.
In each EU Member State, there are poison centres that receive information on the chemicals found in hazardous mixtures (for example, paints, detergents and adhesives) from importers or downstream users who place them on the EU market.
With this information, the poison centres can help consumers, physicians and professional users by giving them medical advice when there is a chemical poisoning.
Each year, around half of the calls received by European poison centres are because of children being accidentally exposed to chemicals. Therefore, make sure you don’t leave any products containing chemical substances in places where your children can access them.
How to prevent poisonings at home?
|Always read the warning labels and follow the safety instructions.||NEVER mix household products while cleaning, as poisonous fumes could be released.|
|Keep all products and medicines in their original containers and outside of your children’s reach.||NEVER transfer household chemicals or medicines to different containers.|
|Remember that vitamins, iron tablets and herbal drugs are medicines too and can be dangerous for young children.||NEVER remove the labels from household chemicals or medicine bottles.|
|If you are called away while using a product, always put the lid back on the container first and move it to a safe place.||NEVER take medicines in front of your children, they may try to copy you thinking they are sweets.|
Staying safe at work
Hazardous chemicals can be found in nearly all workplaces. Across Europe, millions of workers come into contact with chemicals and biological agents that can cause them harm.
Some highly hazardous chemicals — such as asbestos, which causes lung cancer and other fatal respiratory diseases — are now banned or under strict control. And where other hazardous chemicals are still being used, occupational health and safety legislation is in place to manage the risks in the workplace.
According to this legislation, employers have to identify and assess all the risks at the workplace, including risks of exposure to hazardous chemicals. Employers also have to identify measures to manage the risks and implement them. For risks related to hazardous chemicals, employers can use the safety data sheets as a source of information.
Safety data sheets are documents that give information about the hazards of the product and advice about the precautions workers should take to use the product safely. Manufacturers and suppliers of hazardous chemicals need to provide safety data sheets to their industrial and professional customers.
The safety data sheets have more detailed hazard information than the product’s label and can be used to identify the hazards of the chemical you use and to protect yourself from those hazards, providing advice on how to handle a product safely and what to do in an emergency situation.
Section 4 of the safety data sheets is dedicated to first-aid measures. The information tells what to do if an employee breathes a chemical in, swallows it or if it comes into contact with their skin or eyes. It also gives information about possible symptoms and acute or delayed effects and treatments.
- Poison centres website
- European Commission’s page for Poison centres (with list of European poison centres)
- European Agency for Safety and Health at Work
- A safe home for a child - Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency