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Hazardous Household Products: Must-Know Facts on Safety, Storage, and Disposal

There are many things in your home that pose potential dangers to you and your family -- icy walkways, unmanned pools, and electrical outlets, just to name a few. With so many problematic areas, it's easy to overlook another common danger: hazardous household products.

To increase awareness of this issue and promote knowledge about preventive measures, Congress has established the third week of March as National Poison Prevention Week. Here's what you need to know about dangerous products in your home and how to store and dispose of them.

Poisons in Your Home

According to the Poison Prevention Week Council, over 90 percent of reported poisonings occur at home. Children and disabled adults are especially prone to harm from toxic substances, and pets are commonly hurt by household chemicals, as well.

What qualifies as dangerous? Hazardous household products include cosmetics, medications, certain cleaning supplies, and a variety of chemicals used for a wide array of purposes. It's important to note that poisoning doesn't just occur from ingestion of these substances: Skin contact, inhalation of fumes, and even proximity to certain chemicals can cause injury. Burns, eye injuries, and overdose from medications, including over-the-counter drugs, are among the most common injuries.

Easy Ways to Prevent Poisoning

Fortunately, there are easy preventive measures that can protect you and your family from accidental poisonings. First of all, carefully consider the use and storage of hazardous household products. Labels often list specific hazards and storage instructions, so follow these carefully. By simply ensuring that dangerous substances are well out of reach of young children and pets, you've won half the battle. Additionally, many products for childproofing storage areas are available.

Disposing of Hazardous Household Products

Some poisonings are due to improper disposal of dangerous substances. Burning or throwing away chemicals can be dangerous and may even violate federal and state regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency offers a comprehensive guide on how to dispose of hazardous household products, and the Food and Drug Administration explains what to do with unused medications.

What If You Suspect Poisoning?

Many of the signs and symptoms of poisoning -- nausea, vomiting, headache, rashes, etc. -- mimic common illnesses. If you know the offending substance, check the label for instructions on how to respond. When in doubt, however, seek urgent medical attention, or call the Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222.

For pets, you should immediately seek emergency veterinary assistance. You can also contact the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals hotline at (888) 426-4435. The service is available 24/7.

Make a difference this year during National Poison Prevention Week. A good first step is taking stock of harmful items in your home. You might be surprised by how many products you don't need, are expired, or are simply too dangerous to have around. Err on the side of safety, and store them away from your cherished family and pets. Remember, when it comes to toxic substances, an ounce of prevention can go a long way.

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