Understanding hazard labels on household chemicals

02 May 2019

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has issued a Caution Notice reminding householders about the importance of reading and understanding the labels on hazardous substances, to keep themselves and others safe.

Dr Fiona Thomson-Carter, the General Manager of Hazardous Substances and New Organisms at the EPA says, “Poisoning through accidental exposure or mishandling of chemicals is a risk at any age, but something we need to be particularly mindful of in relation to young children.

“Our data shows that in 2016 approximately one-in-three hospitalisations of under-fives relating to hazardous substances around the home were due to swallowing household cleaning chemicals.

“Many things you use at home are considered ‘hazardous substances’ – including dishwashing powder, cosmetics, paint and garden sprays.

“Key words to look out for include DANGER and HARMFUL, and the internationally used symbol for serious health effects – the skull and crossbones, shown below.

“Once you understand the harm that can be caused by the product you’re using, you should keep reading the label for advice about how you can stay safe while using the product, and how to store and dispose of it appropriately.

“All chemicals should be treated with caution, regardless of whether they’ve been classified as hazardous or not. Even ‘natural’, ‘organic’ or ‘environmentally friendly’ products can be harmful - so make sure you read those product labels too.

“If you don’t understand the instructions, check with the manufacturer, or seek advice from the National Poisons Centre via its 24-hour 7-day toll free phone line – 0800 764 766 (0800 POISON).”

GHS sign - toxic

This internationally used symbol indicates that the product can harm or kill if swallowed, inhaled, or in contact with your skin. Handle with care.

Read the full Caution Notice 

Further advice on keeping safe around hazardous substances in the home is also available on the Safer Homes section of this website and the Safer Homes programme Facebook page.