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Corrosives in the eye accidents

Dear Reader,

I saw something interesting recently on a rather disagreeable subject, the subject is eye injury caused by corrosive substances. Now for about 20 years I have worked surrounded by acids, caustic and a range of other not so eye friendly nasties. One has to ask the question of who is more at risk in a given year of getting an eye injury from a corrosive substance.

  1. A cleaner who uses bleach to clean toliets
  2. A farm worker who has to mix and use pesticides
  3. An analytical worker who dissolves and dilutes everything in acid
  4. A platinum group metal refinery worker who works in a plant where everything is digested in acid before chemical separations
  5. A two year old child

Well think about it for a moment, I can not claim to know the exact eye injury rate for each of the four adult trades, but a study by workers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland revealed that for each million adults (18 to 64 years old) the rate of chemical burns to the eye is about half as high as it is for 1 and 2 year old children.

Now we should ask ourselves the question of why is this the case, myself and the researchers hold the view that the small children are likely to access the corrosive products in the form of household chemicals (bleach and cleaning materials) in the home and other places where they go.

The problem with this age group is that they can not read a warning sign and that they tend to experiment (play) with everything that they encounter. I suspect that the best way to reduce the rate of these accidents is to further reduce the ability of children to access corrosive liquids.

I would suggest child resistant caps and packages, I would also suggest that people use a locked cupboard to store garden and household chemicals. For example even while Roundup™ is not toxic to humans I normally keep it either in the basement on a high shelf or in a locked shed in the garden. My reasoning is that my three year old son might know how to open a bottle, but he is less likely to be able to find a padlock key, then reason that the key unlocks a big black / grey box in the garden and then to open it and thus gain access to a stock bottle of Roundup™.

I also have to ask is sufficient effort being put in to making things like lighters and poison / corrosive bottles unattractive to children. Looking at my Roundup™ and most cleaning products they do not look much like toys to me. But I was troubled to see in a supermarket a lighter which has a picture of a pretty doll like girl on the side. My worry is that such a lighter is more attractive to a child than a plain one like a Zippo with a polished chrome finish or a dirt cheap bic lighter.

I would also like to suggest that we consider if we need a particular household chemical or not, for example while oil based paints might give you a nice finish you can often get as good a finish with a water based emulsion paint. I hold the view that the water based paints tend to be less toxic and flammable than oil based paints, also you do not need to use white spirit for cleaning brushes after using emulsion paint. As a result of careful choice of paint type you can reduce the amount of flammable and toxic liquid which you need to keep in the shed, basement or house. As well as reducing the amount of harm which your children can do on a Sunday morning as you try to get that layin which you feel that you so royally deserve, it will make a improvement to the fire safety of your home.

This improvement will be to limit the potential for a flammable liquid fire in your home.


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