September 25, 2017

Garage safety: cleaning out and knowing the risks

The Tennessee Poison Center warns homeowners that the garage can be a resting place for many toxins, chemicals and potential hazards.


This is the time of year when cleaning out your garage may show up on your to-do list.

The Tennessee Poison Center, housed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, warns homeowners that the garage can be a resting place for many toxins, chemicals and potential hazards.

Substances such as automotive supplies, solvents, oils, fuels, lawn and garden products and pool chemicals can be potential health hazards if handled incorrectly or ingested.

For example, Ethylene glycol is found in radiator fluid. It has a sweet smell and taste and can lead to kidney failure and death.

Methanol is in windshield washer fluid and gas additives. A few teaspoonful ingested can lead to blindness and death.

Diethylene Glycol is an ingredient in brake fluid. Ingestion can lead to renal failure, seizures and death.

Gasoline, kerosene, lighter fluid, tiki torch oil, paint thinner, mineral spirits, turpentine, motor oil, vehicle waxes and polish can all cause chemical pneumonitis if aspirated. Just a small amount in the lungs can be lethal in children.

Acid and lye products such as grill/oven cleaners, drain cleaners, brick/stone cleaners, lime powder, rust removers and wheel cleaners can lead to significant chemical burns to eyes, skin, mouth and lungs.

A small sip of these products can cause serious damage to the mouth, esophagus and stomach.

Lawn and garden products such as pesticides, fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, throat irritation, skin irritation, muscle weakness, methemoglobinemia, hypotension and pulmonary edema if ingested.

Inhalation of fumes can cause eye, nose, throat and respiratory irritation leading to coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and delayed pulmonary edema. Mixing the wrong chemicals together or wetting could cause a reaction such as a small explosion and release of toxic gasses.

The Tennessee Poison Center recommends poison proofing your garage and offers these tips:.

  • Keep products in their original containers.
  • Close the container lid tightly.
  • Store products where children cannot reach them, and use locked cabinets for storage.
  • Call TPC right away at 1-800-222-1222 if you think someone may have been exposed to a potentially harmful substance or poison.