Hidden Hazards: Household Chemicals


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Copyright © 2001 Bryan V Goulstone
All Rights Reserved
First Published 2001
Published by Bryan V Goulstone,
Townhouse 10/5 Corbett Crescent, Aidanfield,
Christchurch, 8014, New Zealand.
(Email beaverslodge@xtra.co.nz).
No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise,
without the prior written permission of the author
Manufactured in New Zealand


                        WHEN ARE CHEMICALS A HAZARD?
                        HOW DO YOU MEASURE TOXICITY?
                        WHERE ARE WE?
                        FIVE SIMPLE STEPS FOR SAFETY
                                                   IN THE HOUSE
                                                   IN THE GARDEN
ALPHABETICAL LIST  -- A   B  C  D  E  F  G  H   I  J  K  L  M  N  O   P  Q  R  S  T  U  V   W  X  Y  Z
                         ASTHMA SOCIETIES (NEW ZEALAND)
                         NEW ZEALAND TOXINS ACTION GROUPS
                                                      INDEPENDENT ORGANIZATIONS
                         M. E. SUPPORT GROUPS
                                                       INDEPENDENT GROUPS
                         GBS (CIDP) SUPPORT GROUPS






Every day we come into contact with and use a large number of chemical products, often unknowingly. The majority of these chemicals are relatively harmless. However, some are dangerous and our complacency in their use and storage is cause for concern.    Since prehistoric times humans have been aware of naturally toxic substances.   Information was passed from generation to generation. Even today most people know from an early age what things to avoid in the plant and animal kingdom.

It is only in the last forty years or so that we have started to produce synthetic chemicals in large quantities. The majority of these chemicals are non-toxic and do no harm to us or the environment. Other chemicals are extremely toxic, but have been well tested. Their effects are known and their use is strictly regulated.  There is an ever increasing number of synthetic chemicals, some which have been in use for a long time, that lack adequate testing. Their safety remains an unknown quantity. It is this group of chemicals which cause most concern.

The rapid increase in the number of chemical companies since the 1950s has resulted in a growth in the number of products available to householders — from adhesives to pet products — from cleansers to pesticides. Many of these products are a boon to the householder.

However, some are of doubtful value and some are even a frivolous use of dangerous chemicals. You will be unaware of the dangers of some products, as many compounds go unlisted on labels.
Current legislation (in New Zealand)is no assurance of safety. Some of the chemicals used as additives (even in food products) are known to be hazardous. A great number of dyes, flavourings and other ingredients have never been adequately tested.
Many chemicals remain in our surroundings, the air we breathe, the soil and water of our environment, even in ourselves, long after we have finished with them. This chemical burden is a consequence of our progress and our need for convenience.
The most sinister part of the whole chemical product area is the fact that we expose ourselves to these products in our own homes every day. Go into any  home, look in the garage, garden shed, kitchen, laundry or bathroom and you will find an assortment of potentially dangerous chemical products, many of which are stored in an unsafe condition. We store them like this because of our familiarity with the product. We often forget the possible dangers and are unaware of the impact they could have on our health —or our children's — and on the environment.
This book presents information about chemicals which are widely available and in use in most households. It is merely a source of information and does not make value judgments about products. Nor is it intended as a comprehensive guide. The book aims to make you more aware of the potential hazards of chemical products and allow you a choice of the most appropriate and least hazardous product for you in any particular application.

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All matter is made up of chemicals. However, the term 'chemical' does not mean the substance is necessarily hazardous, no matter how complicated the name may be.
Unless you have studied chemistry you will not be able to tell if a substance is safe or not simply from its name. Sodium-L-ascorbate, for example, is more commonly known as Vitamin C. You also cannot assume that a chemical product is hazardous because it has been synthetically produced. Nor is a natural product necessarily a safe one. Such generalizations are unhelpful when dealing with potentially hazardous products. To be able to make a sensible assessment you need to be well informed.

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We are all aware of the ways in which chemicals can harm us. The difficulty arises in quantifying the level of risk in each chemical. The term toxicity is used to determine the level of risk to health.
The term acute toxicity is used if a chemical produces an immediate reaction as soon as contact is made with it. For example, ammonia solution produces immediate nausea when inhaled. The effects that appear shortly after exposure, such as rashes or headaches, are also acute, though less dramatic.
The term chronic toxicity is used if the reaction is not immediate. The body has to reach a threshold level of build-up of the chemical before any reaction, which may come days, weeks or years later. Thus, you can develop 'hypersensitivity to particular products. These effects are subtle and often very hard to link with a particular product or chemical exposure.
The term delayed effect is used if the reaction occurs after a long period, even if the original or subsequent exposure does not reach a threshold level. For example, lung cancer may occur many years after inhalation of asbestos dust.
The degree of exposure also needs to be considered when assessing how hazardous chemicals are. It tells you how likely you are to come into contact with a chemical and if you do, in what probable amounts. For example, if enormous quantities of a chemical are needed before they harm you, it may be considered to be toxic but not hazardous.

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A test called the LD50 has been devised to determine a comparative level of toxicity of substances. It quantifies by grams of product to kilograms of bodyweight the amount of substance administered to a test sample of animals within a specified time that causes half of the specimens to die. The LD50 is the amount of a substance, on a scale of 0.01 mg/kg (extremely toxic) to 1000 mg/kg (slightly toxic), administered to a test sample of animals.
The test substance is administered to the animals in different ways — orally, by under-the-skin injection or directly into the stomach. The test is a measure of acute toxicity and not a measure of chronic or delayed effect toxicity, which require more extended and expensive test procedures. The great failing of this test is that the results cannot be directly compared to humans, as animals do not necessarily react to substances in the same way we do.
Very little testing is done in other areas of determining the safety of a substance. For example, allergy studies are seldom undertaken and almost no work has been done on determining whether substances produce hyperactivity or can cause cancer. Little research is done on synergism, that is on how substances react with each other.

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Perhaps all this is too depressing for you?  You may well have assumed- that we are adequately protected by legislation from health hazards in our household products. The World Health Organization (WHO) measures toxicity on a scale I - III.

      Ia …   Extremely hazardous
      Ib …   Highly hazardous
      II …     Moderately hazardous
      III …    Slightly hazardous
In reality we are sadly lacking in regulations in all areas of chemical use. These are a few areas where the laws are often inadequate:
                         Health evaluation requirements:
                         Community education
                         Advertising standards
Products permitted in some countries are often banned in other countries. Where regulations exist they are not enforced. Some products may contain a prohibited substance. Overseas (outside New Zealand), if a product is banned or restricted, it is to the whole market of that product, not just parts of it.
We in New Zealand are a very long way from the standards of consumer protection that the United Nations advocate and have developed. We need improved legislation and enforcement.

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All ingredients and additives are controlled by food law. Labels on packaged food are required to list all the ingredients in descending order according to quantity. All additives now have to be named or numbered according to an International Standard. A system was developed by the European Economic Community (EEC) to harmonize laws so that foods could be moved from country to country more easily. This list of numbers is now accepted as  E  numbers. A list of the E numbered additive products most commonly used should be available free from your Government Health Department.

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Hyperactive children, who also frequently suffer from eczema or asthma, or may require little sleep, can bring intolerable stress to their families. As they grow and become more active they may also develop learning difficulties, speech impediments or respiratory problems, which in turn add to the existing family stress.
The Hyperactive Children's Support Group (HACGS), a registered charity (in New Zealand), was formed in 1977 to help parents to cope with this problem. (See page 34 for addresses)
HACGS recommend a diet based on the work of Dr. Ben Finegold. It involves eliminating all food and drink containing synthetic colours, flavours, glutamates, nitrates, nitrites, BHA, BHT, benzoic acid, and natural salicylates (which include most fruits, some nuts and some vegetables) for six to eight weeks, to purge the body of any product likely to cause hyperactivity. After this period the products are reintroduced one at a time to determine what causes the hyperactivity. They can then be eliminated permanently from the child's diet.
For a further explanation of additives, see Food additives in the glossary.
The following E numbers are recommended to be avoided by hyperactive children:
                                                  102 Tartrazine
                                                  104 Quinoline yellow
                                                  107 Yellow 2G
                                                  110 Sunset yellow FCF
                                                  120 Cochineal
                                                  122 Carmoisine
                                                  123 Amaranth
                                                  124 Ponceau 4R
                                                  127 Erythrosine
                                                  128 Red 2G
                                                  132 Indigo carmine
                                                  133 Brilliant blue FCF
                                                  150 Caramel
                                                  151 Black PN
                                                  154 Brown FK
                                                  155 Brown HT
                                                  210 Benzoic acid
                                                  211 Sodium benzoate
                                                  220 Sulphur dioxide
                                                  250 Sodium nitrite
                                                  251 Sodium nitrate
                                                  320 Butylated hydroxyanisole
                                                  321 Butylated hydroxytoluene

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The following additives (as well as those listed above) are dangerous to asthmatics or aspirin-sensitive people:
                                                  212 Potassium benzoate
                                                  213 Calcium benzoate
                                                  214 Ethyl 4-hydroxybenzoate
                                                  215 Ethyl 4-hydroxybenzoate, sodium salt
                                                  216 Propyl 4-hydroxybenzoate
                                                  217 Propyl 4-hydroxybenzoate, sodium salt
                                                  218 Methyl 4-hydroxybenzoate
                                                  219 Methyl 4-hydroxybenzoate, sodium salt
                                                  222 Sodium bisulphite
                                                  223 Sodium metabisulphite
                                                  224 Potassium metabisulphite
                                                  310 Propyl gallate
                                                  311 Octyl gallate
                                                  312 Dodecyl gallate
                                                  621 Sodium hydrogen L-glutamate
                                                  622 Potassium hydrogen L-glutamate
                                                  623 Calcium dihydrogen di-L-glutamate
                                                  627 Guanosine 5-(disodium phosphate)
                                                  631 Inosine 5-(disodium phosphate)
                                                  635 Sodium 5-ribonucleotide

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We all blame industry for contaminating and polluting our planet. But we all contribute daily to the gradual deterioration of our environment.
There are many potentially hazardous, toxic substances in every home. If you have children, they are likely to find any harmful products that are carelessly stored. Accidents can be prevented by following commonsense rules:


Keep all household cleaners, bleaches, disinfectants, detergents, soap powders, fabric softeners and polishes in high cupboards, preferably under childproof lock
Keep all pesticides, paints, garden sprays, solvents and animal remedies in high cupboards in your shed or garage, preferably under childproof lock
Keep all medicines in a locked cabinet. Never leave them on the bench. Give all your old medicines and pills to your chemist/pharmacist to dispose
Never transfer any harmful substance into a soft-drink bottle or into any container that may be mistaken for a drinks bottle
These rules apply to all homes, not just your own. Ask all your friends and relatives to check their own place — TODAY.

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Almost all household cleaning needs can be met with these six simple ingredients:
                         Baking soda
                         Washing soda.
These still need to be used and stored with care.

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All-purpose cleaners
Mild mixture
                         4 litres hot water
                         1/8 cup soap solution
                         1/4 cup vinegar
                         1/8 cup ammonia
                         1 tablespoon baking soda
This solution is safe for all surfaces, but rinse with clean water after use
Strong mixture
Reduce water content of mild mixture by half. Always use rubber gloves when using cleaning mixtures
(Never mix chlorine bleach with anything containing ammonia solution as it produces a very toxic gas)
Dishwashing solution
Dissolve soap flakes in hot water. Add a small amount of vinegar to remove tough grease
Oven cleaner
Add extra baking soda to the strong mixture of all-purpose cleaner. Put on rubber gloves before scrubbing oven
For very dirty ovens, put 1/4 cup ammonium solution in a flat tray (not aluminium) and add water until the tray base is covered. Place on central oven rack and heat oven for 20 minutes. Turn off and leave oven closed overnight. Clean using baking soda and scrubbing brush
Clothes washing solution

Add 1/3 cup of washing soda (Sodium carbonate) and 1 1/2 cups soap flakes to your machine during fill cycle. For hard water areas add 1/4 cup of either baking soda or vinegar
If your machine has a film of detergent, rinse the bowl with 1/4 cup washing soda before introducing the soap flakes
For badly soiled clothes, rub the stained areas with mixture of 2 tablespoons of washing soda in 1 cup of warm water
For nappies, add 3 tablespoons of baking soda to a bucket of warm water, stir until dissolved. Presoak in this mixture before washing
Bathroom cleaner

Use the mild mixture with a firm bristled brush or make up a clothes washing solution as for nappies and use a firm brush. Rinse washed areas with clean water after use
Toilet cleaner
Use a strong vinegar solution
Pots and pans
Clean by boiling in a strong solution of bicarbonate of soda
Window and mirror cleaner

Mix 1 cup vinegar with 2 cups hot water
Mould and fridge cleaner

Mix 2 tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda in 2 litres of hot water. Use mixture, then clean with warm soapy water. Rinse with clean water
Drain cleaner
Dissolve 1/3 cup of bicarbonate of soda in a bucket of boiling water. Pour down the drain

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The following are effective organic pesticides. Try some
Bacillus thurigensis berliner (Thuricide) (Bacillus)

Available commercially but you can brew your own. First buy a small pack of Thuricide. After treatment of caterpillars with the product, collect dead but not decayed caterpillars. Mash a handful of the dead insects in 1/2 litre of warm milk. Allow to stand three days. Strain the liquid through a cloth and make up to 4 litres by adding water. Use the last of one batch to kill enough caterpillars to start a new batch
Black pepper

Grind peppercorns to fine powder, extract active ingredients by steeping in alcohol, dilute. Used to control weevils and caterpillars

Very effective against persistent weeds
Borage (Borage Officionalis)

Protects tomatoes, squash and cucumbers
Common Salt (Sodium chloride)

1/2 teaspoon salt in the centre of persistent weeds like dandelions will kill off roots and all without damaging the lawn. Leave dry salt on the plant as long as possible before watering
Diatomaceous earth

A fine white 'flour' made up of minute marine insect skeletons. Mechanical action, spikes puncture insects. Kills useful insects too. Do not breathe in this dust. It causes silicosis. Wear mask
Dill (Anethum graveolens)

Protects tomatoes, squash and cucumbers from insect infestation
Fenvalerate (Pyrethroid)

Use for caterpillars, aphids on vegetables and fruit. No good against mites or soil insects and grubs.
Toxicity, low for humans and animals, moderate for fish, high for bees and predator mites,  no good on lacewings. Retention is moderate on plant but breaks down on soil in 2-4 weeks.
Withholding times for fruit — 14 days; sweetcorn — 3 days; brassicas and tomatoes — 3 days
Feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium or Pyrethrum parthenium)

A relative of the pyrethrum plant (produces pyrethroids), this small daisylike flower is an excellent insect repellent because of its bitter aroma
Garlic (Diallyl sulphides)

Plant garlic around the garden. It will repel many of the chewing insects. Or crush to produce 2 teaspoons of essence, mix with 4 litres water, 30 grams Diatomaceous earth and a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol.
Do not use garlic powder as it will burn your plants. Used to control aphids and caterpillars
Lime sulphur

Acts by softening wax of scale insects. Used to control scale insects

Keeps weeds away, keeps potatoes free of nematodes and is a good rabbit repellent. Must be the scented varieties. The best are African (Tagetes erecta), Mexican (Tagetes minuta) or pot marigolds (Calendula officianalis)

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Melia (White Cedar leaves)
Make a concoction of 1 leaf to 100 ml water, 2 drops soap solution, strain. Used to control ants, crickets and others. Trial and error method needed to determine local effect
Mineral oil, dormant oil

Used to control mites, mite eggs, scales, mealy bugs
Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus)

Protects tomatoes, squash and cucumbers from insect infestation
Parsnip (Myristicin)

Homogenize root by liquidising. Used to kill flies, pea aphids. Works synergistically with other pesticides
Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)

Repels ticks, mosquitoes, biting insects, especially good at repelling sandflies. Use as a fleacollar for pets
Pepper (Chilli)

Liquidise 2 or 3 very hot peppers, 1/2 an onion, and a clove of garlic, boil, and leave to cool and infuse in water for 38 hours, strain. Will not damage tender plants
Permethrin (Pyrethroid)

Similar to fenvalerate.
Withholding times, grapes and citrus 28 days; bush and canefruit — 14 days; sweetcorn — 7 days; all others — 3 days

Used to control aphids and caterpillars.
Pyrethrins are obtained by powdering painted lady plants (chrysanthemum coccineum, or chrysanthemum cinerariafolium). Use as a dust or emulsify in water. Contact poison. Can cause dermatitis. Toxicity low for all. Retention short

Extracted from the root of Lonchocarpus.
Content of Derris used to control caterpillars but it kills bees and earthworms and beneficial insects. Toxic to fish
All pesticides should be handled with care and used in moderation.

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When a person is poisoned
                         Identify the poison
                         Keep any remaining poison in the original container
                         Note the trade name and all other details from the container label
                         Find out its normal use
                         Establish whether it is solid, liquid or gas
                         Establish whether it is flammable
                         Note the smell of the poison
                         Work out roughly how many or how much was taken
                         Take the container with you
Swallowed poison

Do not make the person vomit if they have swallowed a corrosive or petroleum substance such as fly spray, furniture polish, kerosene, paint thinners, petrol, turpentine or white spirit.

Otherwise, follow the general procedure below.
If they have swallowed some other harmful substance, such as tablets or medicine:
                         Give them plenty of fluid by mouth to dilute the poison
                         Milk or water will do 600 ml or 1 pint for adults; 300 ml or 1/2 pint for children
                         Make them vomit by putting your fingers down their throat or by giving them one dose of  syrup                            of ipecacuanha, followed by 1 or 2 glasses of water, milk or fruit juice.
                         If vomiting does not occur within 15 minutes, repeat with same dose
                         Call an ambulance or take them to a doctor or hospital
                         Wrap them in a blanket to keep them warm
Inhaled poison

If they have inhaled poison
                         Move them immediately to fresh air
                         Loosen all clothing
                         Remove vomit, false teeth, food or other objects from their mouth
                         If  breathing is shallow, give mouth to mouth resuscitation
                         Call an ambulance or take them to a doctor or hospital
                         Wrap them in a blanket to keep them warm
Spilled poison

If they have spilled poison on the skin
                         Wash skin with cold running water
                         Make sure poison does not spread onto your skin
                         Pour cold water over the clothing while taking it off
                         Wash skin with soap and water
                         Do not use chemical antidotes
                         Call an ambulance or take them to a doctor or hospital
Poison in the eyes

If they have spilled poison in the eyes:
                         Hold eyelids open and wash for 15 minutes in a gentle stream of cold running water
                         Do not use chemical antidotes
                         Call an ambulance or take them to a doctor or hospital

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Bites and stings

If they have a poisonous bite or sting:
                         Keep them and the bitten or stung part as still as possible
                         Do not cut into or suck out the bite area
                         Call an ambulance or take them to a doctor or hospital, moving them as little as possible

If they are unconscious:
                         Remove vomit, false teeth, food or other objects from their mouth
                         Lie them on their side and raise the upper leg to maintain the position.
                         Turn the head to one side and raise the arms beside it.
                         Make sure the mouth is free of all obstructions and that breathing is normal
                         Call an ambulance or doctor
                         If breathing is shallow, turn them on their back and start mouth to mouth resuscitation
Having a fit

If they are having a fit:
                         Call an ambulance or doctor
Mouth to mouth resuscitation

                         Lie them on their back
                         Loosen all clothing
                         Remove vomit, false teeth, food or other objects from the mouth
                         Hold the chin up, tilting the head back as far as possible
                         Blow into the mouth and/or nose until the chest rises
                         (Where there are burns around the mouth, use or improvise a breathing tube or use the nose)
                         If the burnt area on the face is extensive, wait for medical assistance
                         Allow them to release air
Repeat these last two stages at a rate of about 20 times per minute

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One of the constituents of Agent Orange
Use: Herbicide
Hazard: Attacks the nervous system. The effect is often delayed
Precaution: Use with extreme care
Environment: Vigorously opposed by many international organizations on environmental grounds
2, 4, 5-T

Use: Herbicide
Hazard: 2, 4, 5-T or its contaminant is a suspected carcinogen and teratogen. It is an embryotoxin
Precaution: Use with extreme care
Environment: Vigorously opposed by many international organizations on environmental grounds. Although manufacture has ceased, there is no legislation stopping the use of 2, 4, 5-T

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Abrasive cleaner
: Cleanser
Content: Mild chlorinating bleach, abrasive grit
Function: Cleanses by scouring action and bleaching
Protection: Wear rubber gloves; avoid breathing the dust
Emergency: Not life threatening, even if swallowed. Induce vomiting
Alternatives: Liquid cleansers
Acaricide see also Pesticide
Use: To kill spiders and mites

Acceptable daily intake
The quantity of substance that can be ingested daily without detectable detrimental effects
Measurement: A safe amount level is determined by short-term laboratory tests on animals. The result is assumed to apply to humans. Results take no account of the different levels of tolerance by individuals, particularly those with hypersensitivity to certain products
Acephate see Pesticide
Use: Pain reliever
Hazard: Overdosage causes damage to liver functions
Acetic acid
Common name: Vinegar
Use: Food additive (E260)
Content: Acetic acid
Function: Bactericide; acidity regulator; sometimes used as colouring diluent
Protection: Use in a well-ventilated area
Acetone see also Solvent
Use: In nail varnish, varnish, model airplane adhesives, lacquer
Hazard: Highly inflammable

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Active ingredient
The ingredient of a product that performs the function for which the product was made, for example, the chemical that kills the pest in pesticides
Hazard: Most products contain additives such as solvents, stabilizers and surfactants that increase the efficiency of the active ingredients, but which can also be harmful to health and the environment
Has a short but relatively severe action
Adhesive see Glue
Aerosol see also Fluorocarbons
Hazard: In some aerosols the non-fluorocarbon propellants can be nitrous oxide (which can cause cancer or brain damage), or propane (which is highly inflammable). Others are being developed
Protection: Avoid breathing vapour directly from aerosols
The toxic ingredient found in the mould produced on some grains and nut products, particularly those stored under damp conditions. Aflatoxins are potent carcinogens
Protection: Avoid using badly stored nut products
Alcohol see Solvent, Ethyl alcohol, Methyl alcohol
Aldrin see Dieldrin and Pesticide
Alkylate sulphonate (linear)
Use: Wetting agent in detergents
Hazard: Absorbed through skin; a possible cause of liver ailments
Protection: Wear rubber gloves and rinse Clothing thoroughly
A product that produces an allergic reaction. Allergens can occur in almost all products. Personal identification and avoidance of your own allergens is the only way to prevent a reaction
Acquired sensitivity to particular substances. Is manifest in many ways, from minor skin irritation to life-threatening asthma attack
Aloe vera
Use: Skin treatment; stomach upset cure
Hazard: Can cause diarrhea in infants of nursing mothers
Use: Food additive (E173)
Function: Colourant
Hazard: Dissolves off pots and pans. High concentrations cause memory loss and Alzheimer's disease
Alternative:  Use non-aluminium cookware, such as stainless steel or cast iron
Aluminium chlorohydrate
The antiperspirant ingredient in deodorants
Hazard: Skin irritant
Alternative: Avoid deodorants containing anti-perspirant if they cause a skin rash
Amitrole see Pesticide

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Use: Cleanser
Content: Ammonia gas dissolved in water
Function: Strong alkali bleaching action
Protection: Wear rubber gloves; use in a well-ventilated area
Emergency: If swallowed drink weak acids (lemon juice or vinegar) instead of milk or water. Seek medical aid
Alternatives: Soaps and detergents
Ammonium salts see Bleach
Use:  Relief of indigestion
Content: May contain aluminium hydroxide, magnesium hydroxide, sodium bicarbonate or calcium bicarbonate
Hazard: Aluminium compounds cause constipation. Magnesium compounds cause diarrhea. Sodium bicarbonate increases blood pressure. Calcium bicarbonate can produce kidney stones or kidney damage
A substance that nullifies the harmful effects of a poison. Must be administered immediately after exposure, before the poisoning effect becomes irreversible
Antioxidant see also Butylated hydroxyanisole
A substance that prevents oxidation. Products become oxidized when exposed to atmospheric oxygen. For example, fats become rancid and fruit becomes discoloured. Antioxidants prevent these effects
Hazard: There are no known human hazards except for BHA (Butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
Anti-perspirant see Aluminium chlorohydrate
Destroyer of microorganisms (bacteria) that invade the body
Arsenic see Pesticide; Wood preservative
Artificial food colourant see also Food additives
: Many are known carcinogens. Some cause allergic reactions or hyperactivity in children
Protection: Avoid products containing these ingredients
Use: Brake shoes and pads; building; insulation material
Content: Microscopic fibres
Hazard:  Inhaled fibres attack lungs causing cancers and other diseases
Protection: Wear a fully self-contained space suit
Alternatives: Materials with less invasive particles, such as fibreglass (rockwool) and fibrous mica. Great care must still be taken when using them - wear non-porous gloves, a dust mask and goggles
Aspartame see Sweetener
Aspergillus enzyme
Use: Found in cheeses and other products such as bread, where enzymes are used
Hazard: It is believed that the body changes the substance into a cancer forming agent
Use: Pain reliever
Hazard: Powdered forms contain sodium, which increases blood pressure. Other forms may Contain phenacetin, which causes kidney disease and anaemia
Protection: Use under medical supervision

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Bacillus thurigensis berliner see Thuricide
Benzene see Solvent
Benzene hexachloride see also Pesticide
Use:  Insecticide
Hazard: An organochlorine. Highly toxic if ingested; moderately toxic if inhaled. Irritates eyes and skin. Is a suspected carcinogen
Precaution: Use with extreme care
Environment: Although this product is available to home gardeners it is vigorously opposed on environmental grounds by many international organizations
Benzine see also Solvent
Use: As solvent for rubber cement, glues, resins
Hazard: Highly volatile and inflammable
Precaution: Use in well-ventilated area
Benzoyl peroxide
Use: In acne medications
Hazard: Causes skin cancer in test mice
BHA see Butylated hydroxyanisole
BHC see Benzene hexachloride
BHT see Butylated hydroxytoluene
A product that is decomposed by natural biological processes. Normally used for products that break down rapidly
Biological pest management
The use of a natural predator to control a specific pest. For example, introducing a special species of ladybird to a greenhouse to eradicate aphids
Butylated hydroxyanisole
Use: To prevent fats and oils from going rancid. Found in baked goods, beverages, breakfast cereals, ice-cream, potato chips and other products containing vegetable oils
Hazard:  Enlarges the kidneys and livers of test animals. May also cause enzyme changes that make the body more susceptible to cancer and affect reproduction
Use:  Stain remover and whitener
Content:  One of the following: ammonium salts; calcium hypochlorite; sodium hypochlorate; sodium perborate; chlorine
Function: Releases oxygen when dissolved and reacts with colours to bleach them
Protection: Use rubber gloves and eye protection
Emergency: If swallowed, use antidotes such as milk, egg white, starch paste or milk of magnesia. Induce vomiting
Environment: Kills vegetation, but otherwise no hazard
Alternative: Sunlight
Blood test
The analysis of a blood specimen to determine the presence or absence of a particular substance. It is not a foolproof method of detecting exposure, particularly if exposure was brief, testing did not immediately follow suspected exposure; some substances are rapidly excreted, doing their damage on the way; or if some substances are deposited in other areas of the body, such as fatty
tissue or the liver, instead of the blood

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Use: Water softener; disinfectant; insecticide
Function: Dissolves to make water alkaline. Can be mixed with sugar as an insecticide for ants and some cockroaches
Hazard:. May be mistaken for powdered Milk; affects nervous system in large doses
Protection: Label container clearly. Avoid prolonged use in ointments. Keep out of reach of children
Emergency: If swallowed, induce vomiting
Environment: Toxic to plants
Boric acid
Use: Cosmetic products, particularly baby powder, bath powder, creams, mouthwashes, soaps and skin treatments
Hazard: Is toxic to infants if absorbed through abraded skin (less than 5 gr can cause death)
Protection: Avoid products containing this ingredient
Brominated vegetable oil
Use: To stabilize flavouring oils. Found in baked goods, citrus and other fruit juices and beverages and ice-cream
Hazard: May cause heart and liver damage
A substance that resists changes in the acid/alkali balance of a solution. Usually a salt formed from a weak acid
Bulking agent
Food additives that add significant volume to a food product but adds no calorific or energy value
Butylated hydroxytoluene see  Butylated hydroxyanisole
BVO see Brominated vegetable oil

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Use: Pigment; fireproofing; a stabilizer in plastics; batteries; worm killer (nematodicide); in electroplating
Content: Metal element
Hazard: A most toxic metal. Avoid inhaling or ingesting fumes
Protection: Prevent children from gnawing painted toys
Alternative: Choose wooden and unpainted toys. Avoid earthenware glazed by amateurs
Calcium hypochlorite see also Bleach
Use: Swimming pool sterilizer
Function: Chlorine is produced when dissolved in water and oxidizes to kill bacteria and algae. Also has bleaching effect
Hazard: Explosive when hot or damp. Spontaneously ignites on contact with oils and solvents. Releases poisonous chlorine fumes on contact with acid. Burns on contact with skin
Protection: Wear rubber gloves and goggles. Never leave in a car boot on a hot day. Always add powder to water, never the other way round
Alternative: Use non-chlorine pool sterilizers such as Bactril, or an electrolytic chlorine generator
Calcium peroxide
Use: Dough bleaching agent. Found in white bread
Hazard: Mutagenic at high concentrations
Use: In mothballs as moth deterrent and as skin conditioner in salves and ointments
Function: Mild disinfectant and emollient (skin softener)
Hazard: Toxic if swallowed, or if camphorated ointment applied to the nostrils of small children
Cancer promoter
A substance that increases the risk of cancer developing when a carcinogenic substance is
encountered, even though the promoter is not itself a carcinogenic substance

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Captan see Pesticide
Carbamate see Pesticide
Carbaryl see Pesticide
Carbolic acid
Use: Disinfectant
Hazard: Passes through skin; very toxic
Protection: Wear rubber gloves, goggles and mask
Emergency: Speed of treatment is essential, as caustic is very reactive. Seek medical help immediately
Carbon monoxide
Toxic gas
Hazard: Interferes with the capacity of the blood to take up oxygen
Protection: Keep away from car exhausts, especially in enclosed spaces
Carbon tetrachloride see Solvent
A chlorinated solvent
Use: For degreasing. used in some old fire extinguishers
Hazard: Produces toxic gases when it decomposes in contact with hot surfaces
A substance that initiates cancer (uncontrolled cell growth). The method of such initiation is as yet unknown
A chemical that initiates and takes part in a chemical reaction but remains unchanged when the reaction is complete
Purgative drug or agent
Caustic soda
Use: Oven and drain cleaners
Content: Sodium peroxide, potassium hydroxide, or caustic potash
Function: Combines with fats and waxes to form water soluble soaps or emulsions
Hazard: Rapidly burns eyes and skin, as it is strongly alkali
Protection: Wear rubber gloves and goggles
Emergency: If on skin, wash copiously with water or vinegar. If ingested, do not induce vomiting. Seek medical aid immediately. Drink plenty of water and keep calm
Alternative: For ovens, use washing soda and steel wool, or a damp soapy cloth while oven is still warm. For drains, use a hot solution of washing soda (sodium carbonate) or a handful of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), followed by a cupful of water
CFC see Chlorofluorocarbons
Chlorine see Calcium hypochlorite
Chloroethylene see Vinyl chloride monomer
Chlorofluorocarbons see Fluorocarbons
Chlordane (1,2,4,5,6,8,8-octochloro3a, 4,7,7a-tetrahydro-4, 7-methanoidan)

Use: Insecticide
Hazard: Organochlorine, suspected carcinogen, teratogen, causes blood disorders
Environment: Vigorously opposed on environmental grounds by many international organizations

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Chloroform see also Solvent
A chlorinated solvent
Use: As a solvent for resins and fats
An action that persists over a long period
Common salt see Sodium chloride
Correction fluid see also Solvents
Use: Typing error covering liquid
Content: Pigment and trichloroethane or trichloroethylene
Protection: Use only in a well-ventilated area. Very toxic
Emergency: If inhaled seek fresh air immediately. If swallowed, use normal treatment as for petroleum products
Environment: As highly toxic ensure that all solvent has evaporated before disposal by removing plastic stopper and leaving bottle in a well-ventilated area
Alternatives: Erasing rubber or erasing strip. Letter-lifting typewriter or word processor
Vigorous chemical action that destroys the surface it comes into contact with
Content: There are thousands of cosmetics, using many hundreds of ingredients. Not all are safe
Alternative: Herbal or 'organic' cosmetics
Cough suppressant
Use: Relief of colds and coughing
Content: Dextromethorphan or codeine
Hazard: Causes drowsiness. Codeine can be addictive if taken in large doses over an extended period
Precaution: Do not undertake tasks such as driving that require concentration
Use: Timber treatment for fungus and termite attack
Content: Black liquid derived from coal tar
Function: Contains a mixture of phenolic compounds that kill most living organisms
Hazard: Corrosive and carcinogenic
Protection: Wear protective clothing, gloves and goggles
Alternatives:  Of the three wood preservatives available pentachlorphenol, copper chrome arsenate and creosote - creosote is the least hazardous
Use: Disinfectant
Hazard: Can be absorbed through lungs. Very toxic
Precaution: Wear gloves, goggles and breathing apparatus
Emergency: Seek medical help immediately
Cultural pest control
A technique to control or eliminate pests by controlling the environment. For example, place fine mesh around cabbages to deter cabbage-white Butterfly
Cumulative poison
The effect of exposure to successive small doses that are stored by the body and ultimately reach a damaging quantity
Cyclamate see Sweetener

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DDT see also Pesticide
Use: Insecticide
Hazard: Organochlorine
Precaution: Use with extreme caution
Environment: Vigorously opposed by many international organizations on environmental grounds
Use: Relief from colds and allergies
Content: Pseudoephedrenes, antihistamines and belladonna
Hazard: Increases blood pressure; causes nervousness, insomnia and palpitations
Derris see Pesticide
Use: Clothes washing and whitening
Content: Surface active ingredient to bind to dirt and keep it suspended in water. Other ingredients; alkalinity adjusters; perfumes; free flow additives; foam stabilizers; bleaches, softeners; brightening agents; phosphates; silicates; and enzymes
Hazard:  As strongly alkaline will burn sensitive skin. Is dangerous if splashed into eyes or swallowed
Protection:  Wear gloves and goggles
Environment:  Non-biodegradable detergents are slow to break down. The phosphates in detergent promote rapid algae growth that pollutes rivers and streams. When the algae die and rot they use up the oxygen in the water. The water becomes unable to support life and putrefying bacteria invade the system.
Alternatives: Herbal dishwash and clotheswashing powders and liquids such as Herbon, Nutrimetics and Amway are available from health food shops
Diazinon see Pesticide
Dicamba see Pesticide
Dichloroethane see also Solvent
A chlorinated solvent
Use: As a solvent for lacquers
Dichlorvos see Pesticide
Dieldrin (also known as Aldrin) see also Pesticide
Environment: Vigorously opposed by many international organizations, on environmental grounds
Diet pills
Use: To produce weight loss
Content: Caffeine, phenylpropanolamine
Hazard: Increases blood pressure
A substance that is used to dissolve or dilute another substance
Dimethoate see Pesticide
Dipel see Pesticide
Diquat see Pesticide
Disulphoton see Pesticide

Chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins. There are more than 75 dioxins. The most toxic is 2,3,7,8-tetra-chlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). Dioxin is an unwanted byproduct in the manufacture of 2,4,5-T and other organochlorine compounds. It is also formed by combustion of organic compounds in the presence of chlorides. Thus it can be produced in coal, oil and wood fires, and when plastics are burnt, particularly plastics containing chlorine, such as PVC
Hazard: One of the most toxic chemicals known
Environment: Immobilized in soil, breaks down very slowly, probably longer than 25 years
Drain cleaner see Caustic soda, Hydrochloric acid, Potassium, Sodium hydroxide, Lye
Dry-cleaning solvent (also known as white spirit, perchloroethylene, fluorocarbon)
Use: Removes dirt and grease from clothes and fabric
Hazard: Evaporates quickly, white spirit is also inflammable
Protection: Wear rubber gloves and goggles
Environment: All these solvents are vented to the atmosphere and not recycled. Fluorocarbons damage the ozone layer. Perchloroethylene is toxic to the atmosphere. The residue from processing all three solvents is flushed down the drain and pollutes the oceans

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EDB see Ethylene dibromide
Emulsifier see also Surfactant
A substance that assists one compound in becoming soluble, or miscible in another that it usually will not mix with
Endosulphan see Pesticide
Epoxy resin
Use: Glues, paints, varnish, casting resin and for making moulds
Content: Epoxide, amide or mercaptan
Hazard: Strong reaction of nausea, allergies or headaches to unmixed components in some people
Precaution: Wear rubber gloves
Ethyl alcohol see also Solvent
Use: Intoxicant in beverages, Antiseptic and solvent for fats
Ethylene dibromide
Use: Fumigant
Hazard: Halogenated fumigant. Highly irritating to eyes, skin and mucous membranes. Damages central nervous system, kidney and liver. In New Zealand it is only available to commercial users
Eucalyptus oil
Use: Disinfectant, pesticide
Alternative: Garlic, soap, white oil or onion spray
Hazard: It is poisonous in large doses of  3-20 ml and can kill. It can be beneficial in very small doses
A powdered inert substance used to bind active ingredients into a tablet. Term is also used in the
baking trade to indicate the carrier substance for additives in bread

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Consists of a polyester resin reinforced with glass fibres
Use: For building boat, cars, surfboards
Content: Polyester resin, hardener (usually a peroxide)
Hazard: Unmixed components and solvents are toxic
Precaution: Wear rubber gloves, mask and goggles. Use in a well-ventilated area, with water supply nearby
Environment: Does not break down. Dispose by burial or high temperature incineration
Flowers of sulphur see Sulphur
Fluorides see also Fluorocarbons
Use: In water supply; as hardener for teeth in toothpaste, mouthwash and dental tablets
Content: Stannous fluoride
Hazard: A few people, under one percent of the population are susceptible to very low amounts (1 ppm) of stannous fluoride. Overdoses (two times the normal beneficial dose) can cause serious mottling of teeth. Acute poisoning occurs with 20 times the normal beneficial dose. Household tap water contains considerably less than the normal beneficial dose of stannous fluoride
Alternatives: Use unfluoridated toothpaste for the very young, who tend to swallow toothpaste. Tooth decay can be prevented with a good diet that is low in sugars and carbohydrates. If teeth start to show mottling, rainwater or distilled water should be used for drinking and cooking. Use distilled water for bottlefed babies formula rather than tap water
Use: Propellant for aerosols; refrigerant in air conditioners and freezers; dry-cleaning agent
Environment: Destroys atmospheric ozone layer. Avoid using when possible
Food additive
A substance added to food to enhance its properties. Food additives will be listed by 'E' (European) number instead of by name on the outside of the product in descending order of quantity contained in the product
Additives fall into the following classes:
                         E100 - 180                              Colours
                         E200 - 290                              Preservatives
                         E300 - 321                              Antioxidants
Some numbers between
                         E322 and 495                         Emulsifiers, thickeners
                         E420, 421                                        Sweeteners
                         E422                                                Solvent
                         E905,907                                         Mineral hydrocarbons
Miscellaneous additives which are not included in a run sequence of numbers include such things as monosodium glutamate (flavour enhancer), bulking agents, glazing agents and anti-foaming compounds
Food colouring see Food additive
A pigment or dye added to food to enhance its appearance
Food flavour see also Food additive
A substance added to food to enhance its taste
Food preservative see also Antioxidant, Food additive
A substance added to food to lengthen its shelf life

Use: This chemical has many uses. The gas is used as a fumigant. Formalin (the gas dissolved in water) is used as a preservative and disinfectant. Used in nail hardeners. As a resin in glues and laminating agents, for plastic foam, as carpet 'finish', as a stiffener for tissues, and to dress garments against shrinkage, creasing and crushing
Hazard: Causes allergies, and in some people hypersensitivity
Precaution: Use in a well-ventilated area. Wash new garments, especially underwear, before wearing
Freon see also Fluorocarbon and Solvent
A fluoridated  solvent
Fungicide see also Pesticide
Use: To kill fungus

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Genetically Modified (GM)
GM or GE(Genetically Engineered) is the process by which genetic traits can be copied and transferred between species.
The practice of selective breeding has in the past been sufficient to keep pace with our needs for improved crops and stock.
Scientists have developed a process where they introduce elements of the DNA of a different species or remove DNA elements from the DNA of the target species to produce special added traits such as pest resistance
The safety of the products produced by this process (biotechnology) for human consumption is currently undetermined. Each product will have to be individually tested.
Content: Starch and waterbased PVA (polyvinylacetate) glues can be used by children. Most solvent based glues are a fire hazard, and are a health hazard when inhaled. 'Super glues' should be kept off the skin
Precaution: Use in well-ventilated areas. Supervise children using solvent based glues
Emergency: Seek medical help immediately
Glyphosphate see Pesticide
Use: As a less toxic substitute for Phenol in cosmetics
Hazard: Can be absorbed through skin. Causes intestinal irritation and heart failure. Banned in EEC

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Hair dye
Use: To colour or tint hair
Content: Aromatic amines. A few contain lead acetate. Lead acetate is absorbed through the skin and accumulates in the body. Some aromatic amines are carcinogenic
Hazard: The most hazardous dyes are those that require mixture with hydrogen peroxide or ammonia
Alternative: Use herbal or 'organic' hair dyes
Head lice treatment
Use: To kill headlice and their eggs
Function: Insecticide
Content: Pyrethrins are safe and effective. Carbaryl and malathion have been found to be the most effective. DDT, an organochlorine, is not recommended. Lindane, an organochlorine, is widely used but not recommended. Benzoyl benzoate, an insect repellent, is not recommended
Alternative: Tea Tree shampoo oil. Mechanical destruction with fine-toothed comb, followed by wash with 50/50 mix vinegar and water. If this fails use pyrethrin gel or cream. Follow instructions carefully
Heptachlor see Pesticide

Herbicides see also Pesticide
Use: To kill vegetation
Hexazinone see Pesticide
A substance that absorbs atmospheric moisture to prevent a product 'drying out'
Hydrocarbon see Solvent
Hydrochloric acid
Use: Breaks down organic matter
Function: Drain cleaner
Hazard: Extremely corrosive
Protection: Wear rubber gloves, goggles and apron, preferably rubber-coated
Emergency: Flush affected areas with copious amounts of water. Seek medical aid immediately
Hydrogen peroxide see Peroxide
The extreme behavioural response of some children and adults to small quantities of certain ingredients in their food and drink
Abnormally high blood pressure
Abnormally low blood pressure

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Being protected by the body's defences against infection
Invasion of the body by micro-organisms (bacteria, virus)
Insecticide see also Pesticide
Use: To kill insects
Insect repellent
Use: To keep insects away from the body
Content: May include ingredients such as chromiton, triclosan, diethytm, toluamide or pyrethroids (pesticides)
Hazard: Effects of ingredients on users not known
Alternative:  Herbal products such as citronella, pennyroyal, sassafras, cajuput, lavender and bergamot
Integrated pest management see Biological pest management
Iodide see Iodine
Use: Antiseptic
Function: Penetrates bacterial Cells and destroys them
Hazard:  Corrosive in crystalline state
Emergency: If ingested, seek immediate medical aid
Alternative: Other external application antiseptic creams or ointments

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Kerosine see also Solvents
A fuel. Good solvent for grease and tar
Hazard: Poisonous if swallowed
The initial rapid and recoverable paralysis produced by low doses of insecticides usually pyrethrins. Normally used in combination with a killing insecticide

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Use:  To purge intestinal tracts, for example, to relieve constipation
Content: Softeners, bulking agents, cathartics and/or stimulants
Hazard: Mineral oils prevent absorption of vitamins and are suspected carcinogens. Castor oil causes loss of body fluids. stimulants can cause stomach cramps. Sodium cathartics cause loss of body fluids and can produce kidney problems
The dose (quantity) of a given substance which will kill 50 percent of the test animals within a specified time. The value is usually given as milligrams of substance versus kilograms of bodyweight of the test animal. 0.01 mg/ kg is considered extremely toxic; 1000 mg/kg slightly toxic. This is often the only measurement of toxicity available on large numbers of chemicals, and is usually accepted by authorities. Scaling these measurements up to the human condition (which is the current practice) may be inaccurate as it creates scalar problems and does not take into account the inconsistent nature of individual human physiology
Use:  Many products contain lead, often in the form of alloys
Content: Metallic lead
Function: Lead has no known beneficial use within the body. It is an accumulative contaminant. When found in the body in quantity, it creates damage to the brain and nervous system
Protection: Avoid lead-bearing products
Environment: Lead contamination of the air and soil, by deterioration of old paint and other lead containing products including leaded petrol, can cause poisoning
Lindane see Benzene Hexachloride and Pesticide
Lye see Caustic soda

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Malathion see Pesticide
MCPA see Methylchlorophenoxy-acetic acid
MEK see Solvent
Methylchlorophenoxy-acetic acid see Pesticide

Use: Various, in a number of products such as thermometers, tumbler switches, hydrometers
Hazard: Accumulates in the body, particularly the brain. Readily absorbed. Causes crippling, brain damage and blindness
Environment: Readily combines with organic compounds and can easily enter the food chain
Alternatives: Use non-mercury equivalents, such as alcohol thermometers, polymer/ceramic dental fillings
Metaldehyde see Pesticide
Metasystox see Pesticide
Methiocarb see Pesticide
Methyl alcohol
Use: Added to ethyl alcohol to produce methylated spirits
Hazard: Poisonous when drunk in volume. Usually dyed with pyridine to make it unpalatable
Methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) see Solvent
Methylated spirits see Methyl alcohol, Solvent
Methylene chloride
Use: In cleaning, polishing solutions and paint strippers
Hazard: Inhalation causes the blood to take up carbon monoxide in preference to oxygen. The effect is similar to asphyxiation
Precaution: Use in well-ventilated area
Miticide see also Pesticide
Use: To kill mites
Monosodium glutamate
Use: Food additive (E621 )
Function: Flavour enhancer
Hazard: Some people are sensitive to this product. Can cause chest pains, palpitations, convulsions and even induce chronic asthma
Precaution: Avoid products containing monosodium glutamate
Moth balls see Naphthalene
Motion sickness drugs
Use: Prevention of sickness in vehicles by ingested tablet or by skin absorption tablet
Content: Dimenhydrinate is the most common ingredient in non-prescription drugs. Scopolamine or hyoscine is most common in prescription drugs
Hazard: All cause drowsiness. Can increase symptoms of glaucoma, enlarge the prostate and cause urine retention. Use under medical supervision
MSG see Monosodium glutamate
A substance that produces changes in the structure of the genes. Particularly of concern is the effects on egg and sperm cells, which can lead to offspring who are either more susceptible to cancers or are likely to have abnormalities

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Use: Moth repellent
Hazard: Vapour can cause nausea, convulsions, diarrhea and vomiting
Precaution: Use in well-ventilated area. Wash any clothes stored with naphthalene
Alternative: Dried lavender or cloves
Natural gas
Use: Energy source
Content: Methane, ethane, propane and butane, and sometimes mercaptan. Odour compounds are often added for safety
Precaution: Use in well-ventilated area
Nematodicide see Pesticide
A chemical used to kill small nematode worms in potato crops
A substance that effects the normal working of the nervous system
Use: Insecticide
Hazard: Very toxic
Precaution: Use alternative product
Alternative: Any other organic insecticide
Use: Food preservative, mainly for meats
Function: Prevents growth of bacteria
Hazard: Hypersensitives should avoid these products
Precaution:  Avoid eating processed meats
Nitrite see Nitrate
Use: Polishing ingredient
Hazard:  Vapour is toxic and rapidly absorbed through skin. If inhaled or ingested, causes nausea, vomiting and impairs oxygen absorption of blood
Precaution: Avoid products containing ingredient

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O-hydroxyanisole see Guaiacol
Organochlorine see Pesticide
Organophosphate see Pesticide
The act of chemically combining with oxygen — sometimes also used for the chemical action of the removal of hydrogen

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Content: Pigment, filler, resin, and solvent or water. Most modern paints used in the home are water-based. A few are solvent-based. Always be sure of the precautions necessary when using your product. Specialist and industrial paint products should be used with particular attention to safety, as many are very toxic
Hazard: Some old paints contain lead
Precaution: Do not burn off paint suspected to contain lead. Scraping, sandblasting, chipping, sanding or using a paint stripper are preferable. Whatever type of paint you are removing, always use a dust mask. Collect the waste chippings and dust - a vacuum cleaner makes this job easy and wrap them in paper to prevent spillage. Dispose of them at the city dump. Try not to pollute the soil where the paint is being removed as it remains in the environment for a very long time
Paint stripper see also Solvent
Use: To remove paints and varnishes
Content: Methylene chloride, caustic soda, ammonia or other solvents
Hazard: Solvent or caustic fumes
Precaution: Use in a well-ventilated area. Wear gloves and goggles. Dispose of scrapings by wrapping in paper and sending them to the dump. Do not bury this material on your property
Alternatives: Sandblasting, sanding, scraping. Burning is not recommended as it may create toxic by-products, even in water-based paints
Use: Deodorizer, disinfectant and moth repellent
Function: Prevents the formation of foul-smelling amines in stagnant urine. Its strong odour masks other smells.
Alternative: Regular, frequent cleaning of toilets prevents the formation of amines. Use vinegar solution as a cleanser
Paraffin see also Solvent
Use: Solvent (paint thinner), wax candles, ointment base, internal medicament (liquid paraffin)
Content: Alkanes (the members of the organic chemical group that is the paraffins) are usually extracted from natural gas and petroleum. They come in a range from liquids to hard waxes
Paraquat (1,1'dimethyl-4,7'- bipyridinum ion) see also Pesticide
Use: Herbicide
Hazard: Highly toxic. Oral ingestion extremely serious. Skin penetration and inhalation hazardous. Initially causes irritation to mucous membranes, followed by vomiting, abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. Delayed pulmonary and renal scarring are irreversible. May be fatal
An organochlorine that is banned in many countries
Use: Wood preservative and pesticide
Function: Interferes with normal working of body cells. It is a fungicide, herbicide and insecticide
Hazard: Strong poison, easily absorbed through skin and lungs. Toxic to liver, kidneys and nervous system
Protection: Avoid using this product
Emergency: Seek immediate medical aid
Alternatives: For a timber preservative use compounds of copper or zinc salts. Use organic pesticides
Perchloroethylene see also Solvent
A chlorinated solvent
Permethrin see Pesticide

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Use: As bleach in hair preparations and detergents, as catalyst in some plastic preparations
Function: Releases free oxygen which breaks down coloured products
Precautions: Wear rubber gloves and goggles
Alternative: Household bleach (sodium hypochloride), but caution must still be exercised
The ability of a substance to remain in the environment for a long period after its introduction
Use: For selectively killing unwanted organisms. (The suffix '-icide' means to kill)
Precautions: Read the label of all pesticides and follow the directions exactly. Take no chances
Alternatives: Use organic pesticides, companion planting or mechanical techniques
Petrol see also Solvent; Lead
A fuel sometimes containing a lead additive
Protection: Wear gloves and goggles. Do not breathe the fumes
Petroleum spirit see Turpentine
Phenol see Carbolic acid
Phenothrin see Pesticide
Photographic chemicals
Use: Developing and printing photographic images
Content: Borax, sodium carbonate, sodium sulphite and sodium hydroxide
Precaution: Follow the safety requirements of all the chemicals and solvents used in photographic processing
Piperonyl butoxide see Pesticide
Plastic see also Vinyl chloride monomer
Most plastic products are non-poisonous in their finished form
Hazard:  Many plastics give off poisonous fumes when burnt - handy person plastic fabrication (such as polyester/ fibreglass, epoxy/fibreglass, specialist car paints, specialist boat paints and adhesives) involves the use of dangerous chemicals and solvents, which would have a mandatory  safety procedure if used in the industrial field. Always make sure that you understand the dangers and the precautions that should be taken with do-it-yourself jobs
Precaution: Do not burn plastic products. Many give off toxic chemicals when burnt. Some plastics such as carrier bags give off minute quantities of toxic fumes which could build up in an unventilated area. Store in a well-ventilated place
Pool chemicals see Calcium hypochlorite; Chlorine
Potassium hydroxide see Caustic soda
Pressure container
A metal container filled with a chemical, dissolved in a volatile solvent, that is released as tiny droplets on operation of the release mechanism usually a button. For example, hair spray, fly spray, furniture polish, spraycan paint
A medicine or medical procedure to prevent a disease
Propoxur see Pesticide
PVC see Plastic

Pyrethrin see Pesticide
Pyrethroids see Pesticide
Pyrethrum see Pesticide

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Use: Medicament or bitter flavouring. Found in tonic water, bitters and fruit beverages
Hazard: Produces hearing loss, vision impairment and nausea
Precaution: Avoid using this product if it causes allergic or other reaction

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Traces of a substance or its breakdown products left on crop, soil, water or any other part of the environment. They may be toxic
Resmethrin see Pesticide
Rodenticide see also Pesticide
Use: To kill rodents
Rotenone see Pesticide
Rust inhibitor
Use: To inhibit corrosion, particularly on the metal of cars
Content: Water displacement wetting agent; fish oil; phosphoric acid and phosphates that combine with rust to form protective coating
Hazard: These products are hard to wash off. Phosphoric compounds are corrosive
Precaution: Wear rubber gloves and goggles
Alternative: Mechanical removal of rust, followed by metal primer

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Saccharin see Sweetener
Salt see Sodium chloride
Substances that prevent trace metals from interfering with normal processes, for example to accelerate oxidation; to prevent gelation
Snail bait see Pesticide
Use: Cleaning. Detergents are now often used for some purposes
Function: Surface acting agents that emulsify dirt making it water-soluble
Sodium chloride (Common Salt)
Hazard: Causes hypertension (high blood pressure)
Sodium hydrogen L-glutamate see Monosodium glutamate
Sodium hydroxide see Caustic soda

Sodium hypochlorite see Bleach
Sodium nitrate (E251) see Nitrate
Sodium nitrite (E250) see Nitrate
Sodium peroxide see Peroxide
May be distillations of petroleum, which include petrol, kerosene, white spirit, petroleum spirit. All are inflammable. Some are poisonous and absorbed through the skin. May also be chlorinated solvents, which include carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, dichloroethane, freon, perchloroethane, trichloroethane.  Most are non-flammable, but are very toxic and also affect liver function
Use: There are many kinds of solvent, and all have different uses
Precaution: Whatever solvent you use, determine the safety measures needed beforehand
Emergency: Treat all solvents as petroleum products. Seek medical help immediately
Spider treatment see Pesticide
Spray drift
The unintentional dispersal of a substance beyond the boundaries of the targeted area
Increases bodily or mental activity
Sugar soap
Use: To clean surfaces before painting. To remove mould
Content: Sand (abrasive) a strong and a surfactant
Hazard: Corrosive
Precautions: Wear rubber gloves and goggles
Alternative: Soap and scrubbing brush
Use: Food additives, preservatives (E220-E224)
Function: Antioxidant; to prevent bacterial attack on food
Hazard: Can cause intestinal and circulatory disturbances. Can induce life threatening attacks in asthmatics
Alternatives: Other food preservatives
Sulphiting agent see Sulphites
Use: As a pesticide used in compound forms as a disinfectant, fertilizer, in drugs and as sulphuric acid
Hazard: Atmospheric sulphur dioxide from factory emissions causes acid rain
Sulphur dioxide see Sulphites
Surface tension
The force required to break the ability of water to form a skin (meniscus)
A substance that is able to dissolve in both water and oily mediums

Use: Sugar replacement
Content: Artificial sweetener, saccharine, cyclamate and aspartame
Hazard:  Saccharine and cyclamate are suspected carcinogens. Aspartame should not be ingested by young children as they are unable to process it. It accumulates in their bodies and can lead to mental retardation and death
Alternatives: Other dietary methods
A chemical which when combined with another chemical produces a more effective result than would be expected from the combined effects of the individual chemicals
A substance absorbed through the leaves or roots of a plant and transported throughout the plant by its sap

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Tartrazine (E102)
Use: Food colouring
Hazard: Induces asthma, particularly when user is sensitive to Asprin
Alternative: Avoid synthetically coloured foods
The ability of a substance to cause abnormal development of a foetus
Tetramethrin see Pesticide
Thuricide (Bacillus Thurigensis Berliner)
Use: Organic pesticide
Use: Coating of steel cans; in solder; in bronze and pewter; as a stabilizer in plastics; as pesticide; in agriculture as fungicide and acaricide; in marine paints
Hazard: Some organic-tin compounds are toxic, such as certain pigments, additives in plastics, marine paints
Precaution: Avoid unlacquered, corroded or damaged cans, especially when for babies. Do not leave or store food in open cans
Toilet cleansers
Use: Cleansing of toilets
Content: Detergents, cleansing agents, dyes and perfumes
Hazard: Cleansers are poisonous. Keep out of reach of children
Environment: All chemicals go directly into sewage system and end up in the ocean
Alternative: Plain water and vigourous brushing is more effective than most if not all toilet cleansers
Toluene see also Solvent
Use: Solvent for rubber cement, glues, resins
Hazard: Highly volatile and flammable
Precaution: Use in well-ventilated area
Toxicity see also Introduction   
The potential of a substance to be poisonous. The health problems arising from contact with a toxic substance varies according to a multitude of variables from individual response to the age of the victim, but as a general rule the younger the victim, the more severe the consequences
Trichloroethylene see Correction fluid and Solvent
A chlorinated solvent
Triclopyr see Pesticide 

Turpentine see also Solvent
Use: As cleaning fluid and paint thinner

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Urea formaldehyde see  Formaldehyde

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Velpar see Pesticide    
Vinyl chloride monomer see also Plastic
Use: To manufacture PVC plastic
Hazard: Produces unconsciousness in high concentration. Leaches from PVC products vinyls, etc
Alternative: Use other plastic products
A liquid chemical is volatile if it readily becomes a vapour (gas) at room temperature and pressure

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Warfarin see Pesticide
In most of the major cities of  the western world the water is pure and safe to drink. In some minor cities and towns it is best to ask locally about the water's purity before drinking it. Some rural supplies rely on rain water or wells, and there is no treatment of the supply
Hazard: In rural areas water may be contaminated by aerial sprays in reservoirs and in rain storage tanks
Content: Chlorine, fluorine
Protection: Boiling for over three minutes to kill bacteria; filtration and carbon filtration to remove solid particles and some pesticides
Weedazol see Pesticide
Withholding period
The time recommended after the application of a substance to a food product, before which the product should not be harvested or eaten
White spirit see also Solvent
Use: Cleaning fluid and lighter fuel

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Xylene see Solvent

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Zineb see Pesticide
Use: Alternative to aluminium compounds in deodorants and antiperspirants
Hazard: Can cause cancer if inhaled. Banned from aerosol products. Can inflame skin chronically
Caution: Avoid products containing this ingredient

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Similar organizations will be available for information in your own locality


(Almost) All the NZ Allergy Support you need

Allergy and Food Intolerance Support
C/o 5 La Salle Drive
New Plymouth
Allergy Awareness Association

P O Box 12-701
Auckland 6
Allergy New Zealand

P.O.Box 56 117
Dominion Road
Ph: (09) 303 2024
Ph: 0800 34 0800

Auckland Hyperactivity Association

P O Box 39-099
Auckland 9
Christchurch Hyperactivity Association

P O Box 22-791
Hamilton Support Group

P 0 Box 15-011
La Leche League NZ

P O Box 1270
Ph/Fax: 04 471 0690
Manawatu Hyperactivity and Allergy Support Group

C/o 19 Colombo Street
Palmerston North
Marlborough Allergy Assistance Group

C/o 2 Surrey Street
C/o 55 Redwood Street
NZ Parent Centers Federation

54 Murphy Street
Wellington 1
Open Forum for Health Information NZ

5 Patrick Street

Otago Contact (La Leche)

C/o 2 Heath Street
Andersons Bay
Wanganui Support Group

C/o 10 Fromont Street
Wellington Hyperactivity and Allergy Association Inc.

C/o 93 Waipapa Street,

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Asthma & Respiritory Foundation of New Zealand
P.O.Box 1459
Ph: 04 499 4594
The Foundation website

Asthma Society

P 0 Box 13091
Asthma Society Otago Inc.

P 0 Box 5494
Auckland Asthma Society Inc.

1226a Dominion Road
Mount Roskill

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Auckland TAG
P 0 Box 35-453
Browns Bay
Auckland 10
Mrs. J Thorne

Rangitoto Avenue
Auckland 5
Hibiscus Coast TAG

C/o Linden Franks
22 Pohutukawa Avenue
Manukau City TAG

C/o Ian Mclnnes
14 Aspiring Avenue
Manukau Heights

Raglan TAG

C/o 1 Bayview Road
Tapanui TAG

C/o Christine Drummond
Hukarere Station    RD2
Tauranga TAG

C/o Anne Forward
4 Hartwell Place
Waiheke TAG

C/o Mike Johnson
37 Crescent Road West
Warkworth TAG

C/o David Bourke
Kaipara Flats RD3
Wellington TAG

C/o Sheila Clegg
16 Wood Street
West Auckland TAG

C/o Mr. and Mrs. P Wright
28 Longfellow Parade
Auckland 7
Whangerei TAG

C/o P O Box 7018

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Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Asia and Pacific Office
Maliwan Mansion
Phra Atit Road
Bangkok 10200
FAO Website

Friends of the Earth

26-28 Underwood Street
London NI 705
FOE Website
South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP)

C/o South Pacific Commission
BPD5 Noumea
New Caledonia
SPREP Website
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

P 0 Box 30-552
Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

The United Nations Building
Rajadamnern Avenue
Bangkok 10200
UNEP Website
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

Place de Fontenoy
75 Paris 7e
Principal Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

GPO Box 1425
Bangkok 10501
UNESCO Website
USA Environmental Protection Agency (USA EPA)

401 Main Street SW
Washington DC 20460 USA
EPA Website
World Health Organization (WHO)

Regional Office for Western Pacific
United Nations Avenue
P  O Box 2932
Manila 2801
WHO Website

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Go to "Search" input "Environment NZ" there are literally hundreds of Environment based sites.

Action for Environment Inc.
P O Box 10-030
Christchurch Environmental Education Trust

15 Macauley Street

East Harbour Environmental Association Inc.

P O Box 41-029
Environment Access Inc.

111 Moray Place
Environment and Conservation Organizations of NZ Inc. (ECO)

7 MacDonald Crescent
P O Box 11-057
Environmental Publications Trust

36 Coyle Street
Environment and Peace Information Centre (EPICENTRE)

785 West Coast Road
Oratia Post Office
West Auckland
P O Box 845

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Friends of the Earth NZ Ltd
29 Princes Street
P O Box 39-065
Auckland West
Greenpeace NZ Inc.

Private Bag
Wellesley Street
Greymouth High School Environmental Committee

C/o Secretary Greymouth High School
P O Box 192
Hibiscus Coast Environment Protection Society

P O Box 270
Whangaparaoa Post Office
Napier Environment Centre

P O Box 796
Nelson Environment Centre

P O Box 715

NZ Association for Environmental Education (NZAEE)

Rangiora High School
East Belt
NZ Clean Air Society Inc.

P O Box 2363
NZ Coalition for Trade and Development (NZCFD)

P O Box 11 -345
Open Forum for Health Information

5 Patrick Street
Waihi District Environment Association

P O Box 84

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(almost) all the New Zealand M.E. Sites

Support groups for M. E. Syndrome in local areas change their operating bases frequently.
Contact one of the following permanent groups for your local group's address and phone number:
The Australia and New Zealand Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Society Inc. (ANZMES)

P O Box 35-429
Browns Bay
Auckland 10
Christchurch M. E. Support Group

P O Box 29-143
Waikato Environment Centre

P O Box 31
Wakatipu Environmental Society

P O Box 64
Wellington Recycling Group

P O Box 4158

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Foundation for the Healing Arts
P 0 Box 4529
Magnetic Healing

41 Esplanade Road
Mt. Eden
Open Forum for Health

36 Puriri Street
Lower Hutt

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Guillain-Barré Syndrome Foundation International
P.O. Box 262
Wynnewood, PA 19096
Australian Chapter

James H Gerrand
138 B Princess Street
Kew, Victoria 3101
New Zealand

Robert J Gregory, Ph.D.
Dept. Of Psychology
Massey University
Private Bag
Palmerston North
New Zealand
United Kingdom

Mrs. Glennys Sanders
Lincolnshire County
Council Offices, Eastgate, Sleaford

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Bryan V Goulstone, was born in Cambridge, England.
He was educated at Yardley Court Preparatory School, Tonbridge and at Mill Hill Public School, North London.
He started work in the Plastics Industry and was involved in Research and Development, during which he became qualified in Plastics Technology and was with the industry for fourteen years before migrating to New Zealand.
Since migrating to New Zealand he has worked mainly in the plastics industry, but for a short time became involved in the boat and caravan manufacturing industry.
Throughout his career he was involved with chemicals and with safe handling and usage techniques for chemicals in industry.
Ironically, he was poisoned by chemical exposure at work and had to leave the industry due to a gradual paralysis produced by working in an environment in which this chemical was present.
Since leaving the industry he has worked closely with the Combined Unions Safety and Health Office in Christchurch, lecturing on Chemical Safety.
He has connections with many environmentally active groups and gives public lectures on safety with chemicals and has published two safety pamphlets.
He has lately developed a neurological condition (thought to have been started by his contact with chemicals) called Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy Syndrome (CIDP).
He lives beside a volcano (hopefully extinct) on the Canterbury Plains in a beautiful city called Christchurch in New Zealand, with his wife and two cats. He also has two daughters and a grandson.

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This page last updated 12/2/04