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What you need to know about Chemical Safety

Chemical safetyCourtesy of tevonews.com

In a report by Greenpeace dated September 21, 2016. Nearly 200 people were killed by chemical accidents. Two years later and still, so many people are being killed by toxic substances that find their way into our air, water and land from different sources. It is obvious that we can’t do without some (if not most) of these substances. So this article is not a call for the total ban or abolishment of toxic substances, as that would be unreasonable; because like it or not, we have to live with and even need some of these chemicals in our daily lives. Instead, this article will focus on how to manage and handle toxic substances.

Chemical Safety

Courtesy of chem-safe.com.au

You might be thinking ‘ how do chemicals relate to sustainability?’. Well, the 3rd Sustainable Development Goal which is Good Health & Wellbeing addresses this issue in subsection 3.9 which states that ‘By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination’.

So here are a few tips on how to manage and handle toxic chemicals in order to prevent injury:

  1. Always buy original chemicals: Always buy your products from accredited suppliers or retailers. Don’t use fake products from unauthorised dealers, you might be at risk of adverse effects from using fake products. The chemicals may not act as expected, increasing your risk of being a victim of a chemical accident.
  2. Always read the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) – The MSDS according to Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System is a document that contains information on the potential hazards (health, fire, reactivity and environmental) and how to work safely with the chemical product’ This document also tells you how to use the chemical safely,  the effects it can have on your health, and what to do if an accident occurs. As you can see a very important document to read for your own and other’s personal safety. Almost all chemical compounds come with this piece of useful information. You can access a sample of an MSDS here
  3. Always know how to handle and store dangerous chemicals: Have you seen that movie or commercial where ignorant workers released toxic substances from a lab causing all sorts of chaos. Do not be that person. Ensure you are fully authorised and trained to handle highly concentrated or toxic chemicals or substances.  If you are not authorised, please get someone else to do the job
  4. Always store chemicals in the correct /original containers: Chemicals can be stored in different containers  e.g. glass, ceramic, steel etc. It is very important that chemicals are stored in their original containers and at their prescribed temperature. Using a different container made from a different material from the original could lead to an unexpected reaction. Especially if you must pour them out into smaller cans before using them.
  5. Never drink chemicals that are are not meant for human consumption: Doing so can lead to long-term health issues and even death.  Please note that the manufacturer cannot be taken to court as they would have clearly stated in their MSDS or label the toxicity of the chemical and the possible health effects of ingesting the chemical
  6. Always dispose of your chemicals correctly: Always read the label or the MSDS on the product to understand how to properly dispose of your chemicals.  I advise that even if you are a not a first time user, a quick read would probably save you a lot of corrective maintenance fees when things go south.

When chemicals or its by-products are not properly Sourced, Handled or Disposed of, it can result in environmental hazards and discomfort. An example is the current soot menace that has plagued Port Harcourt city of River State, Nigeria. This has resulted in a lot of outrage on social media.  Residents of the city have been sharing stories of their distress, and the negative effects the soot has had on them. On Twitter #StopTheSoot campaign has been the order of the day for the helpless PH people.  Most of my close relatives and acquaintances who currently reside in the city have been complaining that it seems the state government has neglected them. You can read more on this issue here.

THE WAY FORWARD.

It is obvious that these chemicals are not going anywhere anytime soon. The best option available to us is to be careful with how we use them and not take this issue lightly. Let’s join hands together and ensure that we keep our environment safe, as we utilize the tools and resources at our disposal in ensuring that these dangerous substances stay as far away from us as possible.

Good luck!

Eric Anidiobi
Anidiobi Ejiofor Eric holds a degree in Project Management. He is passionate about leveraging sustainability in ensuring that a project reflects the triple bottom line. He generally writes at the crossroad of Sustainability in Project Management, Startups, Business Strategy, and Education.