Hazardous chemical products have to be labelled with symbols and text that provides information about the danger. It also has to state how you can protect yourself and how to handle the product safely. There are currently two different types of warning symbol on chemical products. This is due to new regulations that mean the older symbols with an orange background (known as danger symbols) are being replaced with new symbols with a white background and a red frame (known as hazard pictograms). From 1 June 2017, the new symbols have to be on products that are sold in shops. One benefit of the new symbols is that they will look the same in many countries all around the world.
In homes with small children, it can be a good idea not to buy products that are marked with danger symbols when possible. If you do still need to use certain chemical products that are hazardous and are labelled with symbols, they should be stored in their original packaging on which the warning information is depicted and out of the sight and reach of children. Never decant chemicals into soft drink bottles, mugs or other packaging that means they can be confused with something drinkable. If a poisoning accident does still occur, call 112 and ask for poison information.
School children can learn to become more aware of the risks of hazardous chemical products in the home on the educational website http://english.hannashus.dk/.
Products that are hazardous to health
Products with any of these danger symbols or hazard pictograms may cause corrosion or irritation if they come into contact with the skin, eyes and airways. Some may also cause allergic reaction when they come into contact with the skin. If the product is corrosive, it can cause serious injuries even when the period of contact has only been short, for example a splash in the eyes. Products that contain corrosive substances such as ammonia, caustic soda (lye), some acids such as vinegar (24 %) can cause injury even in small quantities. All-purpose cleaner, dishwasher detergent, washing detergent, drain cleaner, limescale remover and oven cleaner are often labelled with these symbols.
These symbols can be found on antifreeze for cars, lighter fluid, white spirit, lamp oil and petroleum distillate. The symbols mean that the product may can cause serious injuries if a child happens to drink it. In order to minimise the risk of small children ingesting the product, lamp oil and barbecue lighter fluid are packaged in opaque black bottles with childproof caps. Remember to screw the cap back on after use.
These warning symbols can be found on petrol, for example. These products may have long-term health risks. For example, they can contain substances that may cause cancer, affect reproductive capacity, harm unborn children or damage DNA. They can also damage other organs. Many chemical products with these warning symbols may not be sold to members of the public.
Products that are hazardous to the environment
Some chemicals such as paints and pesticides can harm both animals and plants if they are released into the environment. People are also at risk if we ingest these substances indirectly due to them contaminating the food we eat or the water we drink. Think about the environment when you are disposing or any waste and always hand in left-over chemicals to a recycling centre. Never pour left-over chemicals down the drain.
Flammable or explosive products
These symbols can be found on products that are flammable and those that can explode or oxidise. Examples of such products are petrol, diesel, acetone and turpentine. Fireworks, aerosol cans and LPG bottles are examples of products that can explode if they are exposed to heat. You can read more about storing flammable and explosive products on the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency’s website, http://www.msb.se.
In order to minimise the risk of children being harmed by chemicals, certain hazardous chemical products such as lighter fluid must have a child-resistant fastening. For example, this can be a cap that is difficult for small children to open. Make sure to screw the cap on the bottle, but do not blindly rely on child-resistant fastening. Children can be ingenious. Consequently, the bottles should always be stored where children cannot reach them.
Warning labels for the visually impaired
Many hazardous chemical products that are sold to the general public also have a marking that people who are visually impaired can read through touch. This marking is embossed and is often in the shape of a triangle.