Hazardous substances include chemicals, poisons, explosives and flammable substances. Exposure can happen by breathing them in, through contact with skin, by splashing or from unwashed hands. Exposure can cause serious illness and sometimes even death.
A bit about hazardous substances
Hazardous substances include chemicals, poisons, explosives and flammable substances. The Environmental Protection Authority defines a hazardous substance as any that has one or more of the following properties above specified levels:
- An explosive nature (including fireworks)
- Ability to oxidise (i.e. accelerate a fire)
- Acute or chronic toxicity (toxic to humans)
- Ecotoxicity, with or without bioaccumulation (i.e. can kill living things either directly or by building up in the environment)
- Can generate a hazardous substance on contact with air or water
Many hazardous substances are used in manufacturing and other business activities, as well as around the house.
Exposure can happen by breathing them in, through contact with skin, by splashing or from unwashed hands. Exposure can cause serious illness and sometimes even death.
Hazardous substances are an essential part of our daily lives. Dishwasher detergents, methylated spirits, bleaches, and petrol can all be dangerous or poisonous.
Substances can have more than one hazardous property, for example methylated spirits are both flammable and toxic.
How should I deal with hazardous substances?
During a disaster hazardous substances can spill and mix together. Water may seep into storage areas, causing damage to packages of pesticides or deadly poisons. The Department of Labour issued advice on how to safely handle these hazards.
If a hazardous substance emergency occurs
- If you are concerned someone has been exposed to a poison contact the National Poisons Centre on 0800 764 766
- Seek advice as spills and leaks of hazardous substances may require emergency actions to be taken
- Fires can result from a hazardous substance emergency; the New Zealand Fire Service often takes a lead role in the response to hazardous substance emergencies
- The action required in an emergency differs depending on the substance involved, but may include evacuation or staying inside with doors and windows closed
- Listen to your local radio station if you suspect that a hazardous substance emergency may be happening near you.