Hazardous Materials Basics

Hazmat Ready?
Hazmat Ready?

As everybody runs to pitch in at ground zero in the Gulf, I want you all to be aware that there are manifold issues related to working in and around high VOC environments. VOC is an acronym for Volatile Organic Compound.


Levels of VOC’s vary greatly depending on atmospheric conditions and combinations of additional toxins, both natural and man made, which can have potentially serious long term effects.

One thing people may not be aware of, is that your skin and your eyes are actually also very effective systems whereby toxics can enter the blood stream. If you get contaminent on the skin use a very low VOC solvent to remove it. Cleaning agents such as Dissolve It (Citrus based) or vegetable oil, followed by  soap scrub, safely remove contaminents without assisting them into your blood stream.

Impermeable Hazardous Material setup
Impermeable Hazardous Material setup

Should you taste contaminent in your saliva, you have it in your blood stream. Many VOC’s can and will be processed by your body’s filter organs. But when you taste it, your organs are being impacted. You will also notice a change in your body odor, as your system attempts to rid the toxins via the respiratory path

Here are a couple recent articles related to the Gulf Coast cleanup efforts


And for some scope. Check this.

Cautionary advice.

Wear a respirator that is properly fitted for your face. Respirator cartridges have an exposure limit time based on volume passage and contaminent levels. One telltale that your respirator is in need of a cartridge change is that if when you go to place the mask on, it smells of contaminent.

Keep your respirator in a well sealed ziplock bag when not in use.

Regularly remove the cartridges on your mask and clean the mask using a cotton swab and alcohol. Air dry, reinstall cartridges.

A link for treatment of airborne contaminent illness.


Rescue Ready USCG
Rescue Ready USCG

The basic rule of thumb when working in hazardous environments is to stay clean.

Certain toxins can accumulate in a biosystem over time, pre disposing the creature to various maladies that range from respiratory irritation, right down to various cancers and other serious ailments.

So no matter how benign one thinks a situation is, be aware that things can go from reasonably safe to hazardous, in the space of a wind or current shift. Be prepared. One would not go in to space without proper training and equipment.

Hidden Toxins
Hidden Toxins

Never enter a hazardous material environment without BOTH in place. No matter what anybody says, you must be the steward of your own health and safety while in the field.

Hmm. Black Tide. That gives me an idea.


7 Responses to Hazardous Materials Basics

    • Thanks Mike. I know people want to help. I have been getting quite a few calls and e mails about what to do in order to prepare. I reckoned a basic primer could save some cancer in the long run and respiratory distress and illness in the short run. The vapor from a light spill on a hot still day gets noxious! Make it a dense concentration and your health can pay for years.

  1. Ignorance Kills, good hearts are not always enough to seal the vision of support. Intelligence gathers information, makes preparations and investigates all the corners to realize the proper coverage. It’s not the tunnel vision of gear hearts that seals the deal, it is the ending.

    The ending is the most important part.

    Good warnings, hopefully people will take heed and not rush without considering the losses that come with action.

    Every thing we ask for we must be willing to surrender an opposition in it’s place….

    good reminders, thanks for sharing…

    • One really needs to consider the basic question of motivation if assistance is what they are indeed attempting to render. Am I the right answer for this situation? Or will me being there simply exacerbate the existing problem? Thank you for always leading by both example and instruction Shawn.

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