Toxic/Strong Odor Emergencies

Most toxic/strong odors emergencies result from everyday household chemicals. Toxic and strong odors can also result from a utility disruption, or a mechanical/electrical problem. While the risk of toxic/strong odors from chemical accident is slight, knowing how to handle household products containing hazardous materials or chemicals can reduce the risk of injury.

Before a Toxic/Strong Odor or Chemical Emergency

It is critical to store household chemicals in places where children cannot access them. Remember that products such as aerosol cans of hair spray and deodorant, nail polish and nail polish remover, toilet bowl cleaners and furniture polishes all fall into the category of hazardous materials.

Hazardous household chemicals may include:

  • Cleaning products
  • Pesticides
  • Automotive products like antifreeze or motor oil
  • Miscellaneous items like batteries, mercury thermometers and florescent light bulbs/fixtures
  • Flammable products like kerosene, home heating oil, propane tanks and lighter fluid
  • Workshop or painting supplies such as paint thinners and turpentine
  • Lawn and garden products like herbicides and insecticides

The following are guidelines for buying and storing hazardous household chemicals safely:

  • Keep products containing hazardous materials in their original containers and never remove the labels unless the container is corroding. Corroding containers should be repackaged and clearly labeled.
  • Never store hazardous products in food containers.
  • Never mix household hazardous chemicals or waste with other products. Incompatibles, such as chlorine bleach and ammonia, may react, ignite or explode.
  • Never use hair spray, cleaning solutions, paint products, or pesticides near an open flame
  • Clean up any chemical spill immediately. Allow the fumes in the rags to evaporate outdoors, then dispose of the rags by wrapping them in a newspaper and placing them in a sealed plastic bag in your trash can.
  • Dispose of hazardous materials correctly. Call Campus Security if you have any questions.
  • Save the national poison control number in your cell phone and post it next to landlines in your home (800) 222-1222.

During a Toxic/Strong Odor or Chemical Emergency

Get out of the building immediately if there is a danger of fire or explosion.

  • Turn off all air conditioners/heaters if safe to do so.
  • Call your Resident Advisor (if in residence hall) and Campus Security immediately who will make the appropriate notifications. Be prepared to:
  • Advise if there are any injuries or illnesses
  • Advise the location of the toxic/strong odor
  • Advise where the toxic/strong odor is coming from
  • Advise the source of the toxic/strong odor if known
  • Stay upwind and away from the building/residence hall to avoid breathing toxic fumes.
  • Do not reenter the building/residence hall until told it is safe to do so.
  • Recognize and respond to symptoms of toxic poisoning including:
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Irritation of the eyes, skin, throat, or respiratory tract
    • Changes in skin color
    • Headache or blurred vision
    • Dizziness, clumsiness or lack of coordination
    • Cramps or diarrhea
  • If someone is experiencing toxic poisoning symptoms or has been exposed to a household chemical, call 911, Campus Security and the national poison control center at 1 (800) 222-1222 and find any containers of the substance that are readily available in order to provide requested information.
  • Follow the emergency operator or dispatcher’s first aid instructions carefully. The first aid advice found on containers may be out of date or inappropriate. Do not give anything by mouth unless advised to do so by a medical professional.


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