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Proper Purchasing, Usage & Storage, Iowa Department of Natural Resources

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Published on Jul 15, 2011

Household Hazardous Materials (HHMs) make our chores and projects easier, but they require special care. When you purchase, use and store a safe, smart solution household product you help keep your home and family safe. And you help to keep our drinking water and our environment clean.

HHMs are the products you use in and around your home that are corrosive, toxic, flammable or reactive. Proper purchasing begins at home by planning for your projects and carefully considering what you'll need.

As you plan, consider green alternatives. Ask your retailer for green alternatives whenever possible. Make a shopping list of the items you'll need and be sure to consider quantity, so you purchase only what you need. At the store, read product labels for use, storage and disposal recommendations so you select the best products for your job, and understand any precautions you should take. Labels on household hazardous materials are required to contain one of four signal words. The signal words in order of severity are: "Poison," "Danger," "Caution" and "Warning."

• Poison means the product is highly toxic and can cause injury or death if ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
• Danger means the product is highly toxic, flammable, corrosive or easily ignitable, and can cause serious damage to the skin or eyes.
• Caution means the product is slightly toxic if swallowed, absorbed through the skin or inhaled, or can cause slight eye or skin irritation.
• Warning means the product is moderately toxic or can cause moderate eye or skin irritation.

Now that you've made your purchase, you want to be sure to use and store them properly too. Use recommended protective equipment to prevent materials from being absorbed through the skin, inhaled or ingested, and ventilate your work area as instructed. Do not use HHMs around food or in areas where food is prepared, and wash your hands thoroughly when you're done.

To prevent spills, pour what you need into a separate container. Then cap the main container, so if a spill occurs while you work, it will be a smaller amount. Be prepared for spills, have rags and garbage bags ready for clean up. Kitty litter also works for absorbing spills. Remember, more is not better.

If you end up with leftover HHMs, it's important to store them safely. To properly store HHMs, review product labels once more for storage instructions. Store them in a cool, dry place out of the reach of children. Choose well-ventilated areas away from sources of heat and sparks, like a hot water heater or a furnace.

Store HHMs in there original container and never store HHMs in food or beverage containers, since they can easily be confused for edible items by young children. Remember to plan ahead and read labels carefully, and then follow the instructions and recommendations. You'll keep you and your family safe, and help protect our environment.

To learn more, visit SafeSmartSolutions.org. When we change our ways, we change our world.

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