Entries in Household products (4)


Household Danger: Product That Spontaneously Combusts

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Linseed oil, a common wood polish and sealant, can burn your house down in minutes if it’s not handled properly.

The product can spontaneously combust and mishandling it can be as simple as tossing some rags and newspapers, soaked in linseed oil, in a box, as ABC News did for an experiment.

Mike and Sherri Prentiss of Cincinnati know the dangers of linseed oil firsthand.  They left some rags in a bundle.

“I had put it sort of folded on itself in to a corner of the garage,” Sherri Prentiss told ABC News. “That was about 5 p.m., and by 9 p.m. that night our garage was on fire,” she said. “There were flames shooting 30 feet into the sky.”

In ABC's experiment, a thermal imager revealed glow-in-the-dark spots where the linseed-soaked rags had reached 110 degrees after an hour. After two hours, there was smoke curling from the newspapers and rags. And after three hours there were flames.

Linseed oil is safe for wood because you spread it out, but left wadded up on rags or paper the oil is so concentrated that it heats up as it evaporates. One of America’s biggest high-rise fires, in Philadelphia in 1991, was caused by workers who didn’t clean up linseed oil properly.  Three firefighters died.

So how can you protect yourself?

Some experts say spread linseed-oil soaked rags flat on your driveway until they are totally dry. To be even safer, you can fill a metal can with water, put the rags in, and then seal it up tightly.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


FDA Reviewing Antibacterial Chemical Triclosan

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Triclosan, an antibacterial chemical found in hundreds of soaps and cleaners, may be getting a dirty reputation.

The chemical has been under review since April 2010, and now the Food and Drug Administration announced that it will extend its assessment of triclosan after several animal studies have shown that the antiseptic may disrupt hormone levels and even cause antibiotic resistance.

The FDA has stated there is not enough evidence to discourage consumers to stay away from products containing triclosan, but the federal organization also noted there is no evidence that the antibacterial provides any more benefit to washing in a household setting than regular soap and water.

Triclosan was originally intended as a hospital surgical scrub to prevent transmission of disease in patients. Today, the chemical is found in thousands of household products.

"It is a valuable product when used in hospitals to inhibit growth of organisms and has been shown to prevent infection in hospitals," said Dr. Stuart Levy, professor of microbiology at Tufts University School of Medicine, who has conducted studies on triclosan's safety in household products.  "But the use of the chemical in household products is not the place it should be used."

In 2001, Levy and other Tufts scientists conducted research that found 75 percent of study participants ages 5 and older had traces of the substance in their urine.

"[Antibacterial products] are now being added to products used in healthy households, even though an added health benefit has not been demonstrated," study authors wrote.  "Scientists are concerned that the antibacterial agents will select bacteria resistant to them and cross-resistant to antibiotics."

But the American Cleaning Institute rejects the dangers, and adds that triclosans benefits all who use the products.

"These products play a beneficial role in the daily hygiene routines of millions of people throughout the U.S. and worldwide," a spokesperson for the American Cleaning Institute wrote in a statement.  "They have been and are used safely and effectively in homes, hospitals and workplaces every single day."

"Bottom line, where is the benefit?" Levy asked rhetorically.  "It has much more harm than benefit."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Chemical Suicides: Quick Deaths, Public Health Hazards

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For more than three years now, news reports have painted eerily similar pictures of Americans killing themselves with toxic fumes: a man or woman slumped lifelessly over a steering wheel, windows up, doors locked, buckets or bottles of household chemicals nearby and homemade signs warning of poisonous gases inside.

From San Diego to Siesta Key, Florida, at least 37 people have died after mixing up baneful brews that in most of the cases cloaked them in invisible clouds of hydrogen sulfide so concentrated that one whiff can kill.  A few of them used similarly lethal hydrogen cyanide gas.

Local, state and federal agencies including the Justice Department have been monitoring the cases, although none have released official tallies. They trace the U.S. incidents to a rash of similar deaths in Japan, a country with high suicide rates.

In March 2008, Miyuki Asou, a Japanese actress who had recently appeared in pornographic films, committed "detergent suicide."  In the first half of 2008, more than 500 other Japanese killed themselves with instructions easily accessible online.  When a 14-year-old girl from Konan, Japan, committed detergent suicide in her bathroom, she inadvertently sickened 90 residents of an apartment building, demonstrating that chemical suicides pose public health hazards.

Whether they extinguish their lives in cars, or in college dormitories, apartments, homes or hotels, those who perish this way unwittingly endanger the lives of passersby or emergency response teams.

After a laboratory worker killed himself in his pickup truck on Dec. 21, 2009, four Kansas City, Missouri firefighters and one of the man's relatives were taken to a hospital after exposure to hydrogen cyanide.  He hadn't posted any warnings.

Emergency operations and law enforcement agencies have scrambled to use such examples to educate employees about donning breathing masks and hazmat suits before getting close to chemical suicide sites.´╗┐

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Chemical in Household Products Linked to Early Menopause

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(CHARLESTON, W. Va.) -- Chemicals found in everyday products such as non-stick pans, clothing, furniture, carpets and paints have been associated with the early onset of menopause, according to a new study from the West Virginia University School of Medicine.

The study published by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that women with high levels of perfluorocarbons (PFCs) in the body had lower concentrations of estrogen compared with women with low levels of PFCs.

PFCs are chemicals that are used in many household items, including furniture, cosmetics and food packaging.

"There is no doubt that there is an association between exposure to PFCs and onset of menopause, but the causality is unclear," Sarah Knox, lead author of the study, said in a news release from the university on Wednesday.

Even though the report may not be conclusive, it's still raising eyebrows. Some doctors say they're not surprised that chemicals are altering hormone levels, but they say they need more proof.

"Studies that we've done looking at these chemicals on the U.S. population show that almost everyone has these chemicals in their blood," Dana Boyd Barr, a research professor at the Rollins School of Health at Emory University in Georgia, told ABC News.

Chemical companies maintain their product is safe, but the study raises questions about whether early menopause is a new reason to worry about PFCs in general.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐

ABC News Radio