Hazardous Materials

Identifying Hazardous Materials

From industrial chemicals and toxic waste to household detergents and air fresheners, hazardous materials are part of our everyday lives. Affecting urban, suburban and rural areas, hazardous materials incidents can range from a chemical spill on a highway to groundwater contamination by naturally occurring methane gas.

Hazardous materials are substances that because of their chemical nature, pose a potential risk to life, health or property if they are released. Hazards can exist during:
  • Disposal
  • Production
  • Storage
  • Transportation
  • Use

Sources of Hazardous Materials

Chemical plants are one source of hazardous materials, but there are many others. Your local service station stores gasoline and diesel fuel, hospitals store a range of radioactive and flammable materials, and there are about 30,000 hazardous materials waste sites in the country.

Nearly every household uses products containing hazardous materials. Although the risk of a chemical accident is slight, knowing how to handle these products and how to react during an emergency can reduce the risk of injury.

Handling Hazardous Materials

If you spill a chemical, clean it up immediately with rags. Be careful to protect your eyes with eyeglasses or goggles and your skin with gloves.

Studies have shown that it is not advisable to label hazardous materials with this sticker, as it can entice, rather than deter, children from opening the container. Instead, store the container out of children's reach.

Local Emergency Planning Committee

Many communities have Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) that identify industrial hazardous materials and keep the community informed of the potential risk. All companies that have hazardous chemicals must report annually to the LEPC.

The public is encouraged to participate in the process. View the Local Emergency Planning Committee page for more information.