Hazardous Material Spills

child knocking over can GIF
That can is full of hydrochloric acid.

A soda spill is a headache. A spill of the more sinister stuff like ammonia, bleach, mercury, oil-based paints, herbicides, or gun cleaners? That’s a hazard.

Hazardous material spills can cause:

  • Injury
  • Illness
  • Death
  • Lasting environmental damage

The last two on that list are a big fat yikes, if you ask me! Let’s avoid them by preparing.

What is a hazardous material spill?

Hazardous material spills are the uncontrolled release of a biological, chemical, or radiological substance which can cause potential damage and destruction to humans, animals, and/or the environment. For example, a major poop from your sweet baby (radioactive or otherwise) could be considered a hazardous spill if you don’t clean it up.

Hazardous material (or HazMat) spills can be classified into 2 types: major and minor.

Minor Spill

  • Less than 500 ml (a little less than 20 oz) of the substance is involved, and
  • It does not pose an immediate fire, health, or safety hazard.

Major Spill

  • The quantity of the spill is such that personnel cannot safely handle its cleanup;
  • It presents an immediate danger to life, health, or the environment; or  
  • It can cause a fire hazard and/or an explosion.

“But I don’t have any hazardous materials at home!”

Remember that nonradioactive baby? You have more than you think! “Hazardous materials” sound like they belong in some laboratory with high security, but they’re everywhere. 

hazmat spill overview
He found out he’s not radioactive AND he’s surrounded by hazardous materials. He’s very disappointed.

Some examples of incidents that qualify as hazardous material spills include:

  • Spilling more than one gallon of bleach
  • Sloshing more than one gallon of gasoline
  • Dripping any quantity of mercury
  • Letting loose any amount of blood or other body fluids

Dozens of household items qualify as hazardous materials. Basically everything you’ve purchased to keep your house from devolving into a foul pit of filthy sadness is HazMat.

Cleaning ProductsDrain cleaner
Laundry bleach
Oven cleaner
Pool chemicals
Tile cleaner
Toilet cleaner
Tub and shower cleaner
Wood and metal cleaners
Indoor PesticidesAnt sprays
Bug sprays
Cockroach sprays and baits
Flea repellents and shampoos
Houseplant insecticides
Moth repellents
Mouse and rat poisons
Automotive SuppliesAC refrigerants
Brake and transmission fluid
Carburetor cleaners
Fuel additives and fuel injection cleaners
Motor oils

Workshop Essentials
Adhesives and glues
Enamel-based paints
Oil paints
Paint removers
Paint thinners
Photographic chemicals
Stains and finishes
Lawn/Garden Care ProductsFungicides
Wood preservatives
Flammable ProductsGas/oil mix
Home heating oils
Lighter fluid
Propane tanks and other compressed gas cylinders
Miscellaneous ProductsBatteries
Driveway sealers
Fluorescent light bulbs
Mercury thermometers

“Okay. I’ll be cautious. Do I still need to prepare?”

Yes. We demand satisfaction!

Hazardous materials can cause severe damage if spilled. And you may not be the source of the HazMat spill that affects you. Major spills can affect a much larger area than the immediate spill location. What would you do if you were in the harm radius of a hazardous material spill?

In all these situations, HazMat spill preparedness can save your health and the environment. Let’s learn!

  1.  How to prevent a hazardous material spill
  2.  How to prepare for a HazMat spill
  3.  How to deal with minor spills
  4.  How to deal with major spills
  5.  When and how to report HazMat spills
  6.  What to do after a HazMat spill
pouring coffee on ground
Stop pouring your coffee on the ground, for one. Your local worms might be allergic to caffeine.

About the Authors

It takes a village! We are researching, writing and fact checking as a family. Collaboration is the name of the game, whether we’re running from a zombie horde or finding the best way to turn a complex concept into a deliciously digestible set of bullet points.

Katherine Esperanza is a Los Angeles based writer. When she's not conjuring new queer slice-of-life short stories, she's busy watching the newest films, out at queer shows, supporting queer artists, or just checking out the queer community as a whole.

A former international non-profiteer, small business owner, and co-op'er, Katherine is delighted to help introduce more leftist politics into the disaster preparedness/prepper sphere, which is currently far too right-wing.