Chemical substances, if released or misused, can pose a threat to the environment. These chemicals are used in industry, agriculture, medicine, research, and consumer goods. As many as 500,000 products pose physical or health hazards and can be defined as "hazardous chemicals." Each year, over 1,000 new synthetic chemicals are introduced. Hazardous materials come in the form of explosives, flammable and combustible substances, poison, and radioactive materials. These substances are most often released as a result of transportation accidents or because of chemical accidents in manufacturing plants.
What Is a Home Chemical Emergency and a Major Chemical Emergency?
Chemicals are a natural and important part of our environment. Even though we often don't think about it, we use chemicals every day. They can be found in our kitchens, medicine cabinets, basements, and garages. Chemicals help us keep our food fresh and our bodies clean. They help our plants grow and fuel our cars. And chemicals make it possible for us to live longer, healthier lives.
A home chemical emergency arises when chemicals are used improperly. Some chemicals that are safe, and even helpful in small amounts, can be harmful in larger quantities or under certain conditions. In fact, most chemical accidents occur in our own homes, and they can be prevented.
A major chemical emergency is an accident that releases a hazardous amount of a chemical into the environment. Accidents can happen underground, on railroad tracks or highways, and at manufacturing plants. These accidents sometimes result in a fire or explosion, but many times you cannot see or smell anything unusual.
In the event of a major chemical emergency, you will be notified by the authorities. To get your attention, a siren could sound, you may be called by telephone, or emergency personnel may drive by and give instructions over a loudspeaker. Officials might even come to your door.
Learn more about your risk of chemical emergencies by contacting the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services, local authorities on hazardous materials, the Environmental Protection Agency, Long Beach Fire Department, or the American Red Cross chapter.
You may be exposed to a chemical even though you may not be able to see or smell anything unusual. You may be exposed in three ways:
Learn about chemicals and chemical emergencies:
If you find someone who appears to have been injured from chemical exposure, make sure you are not in danger before administering first aid. If you think there might be potential danger, call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number. If there is no danger, give first aid as needed.
The best way to protect yourself and your family is to be prepared. Knowing what to watch for and how to respond will keep you alert to potential chemical hazards.