Only a fool would intentionally smear HazMat on their skin, right?  Only someone with serious emotional issues would, on purpose, squirt HazMat on her/his body, right?  Um, no.  Not right.

To reduce the risk of spreading or getting infections, many people smear their hands with hand sanitizer.  In most, not all but most, hand sanitizers, the ingredient that kills germs is ethyl alcohol.  Enough ethyl alcohol to make the hand sanitizer a flammable liquid.  So, when you can’t wash your hands, but you want to clean and disinfect them, you smear them with HazMat.  And the fragrance in quite a few colognes and perfumes is dissolved in alcohol.  So before a big night on the town, you might dab a little HazMat behind your ears or on the back of your wrists, or slap some HazMat on your cheeks.  Who knew?

Of course, now that we think about it, that all makes sense, but me must draw the line at inhaling HazMat, right?  After all, huffing HazMat is illegal or unsafe or both, right?  Eh, not so fast, my friends.  It can be legal and safe to inhale HazMat, and in the right situation, you might deliberately do so.

Inhaling nitrous oxide might not always be legal, but thankfully, some dentists and oral surgeons are allowed to use it to sedate patients before digging around in their mouths.  Just before my wisdom teeth were removed, I was quite grateful to inhale some gaseous HazMat.

Or, if you had a respiratory ailment, and your doctor prescribed you some, you’d probably inhale a different HazMat.  For some…, can we find a rare and exotic ailment, say perhaps asthma; millions of people regularly do use aerosol inhaler devices.  And all aerosols, flammable or not, medical or not; all aerosols are HazMat, even if only because they’re pressurized.

Oops, did I forget to mention aerosols in the intentional skin exposure section of this column?  Mid-afternoons, my trainees are glad that I sprayed some aerosol HazMat deodorant onto my armpits that morning.

Okay, if we concede alcohol and deodorant on our skin, and medicine in our lungs, we can at least declare that we’d never eat HazMat, right?  Right?

In another part of the world, they load bushel baskets of live crabs onto airplanes, and fly the crabs inland, where they are in high demand as edible delicacies.  At each full moon, plus and minus a couple days, the crabs secrete pheromones.  Normally the pheromones disperse in the sea, attracting crabs of the opposite sex.  But on the airplanes, the pheromones just drip out of the bushel baskets into the cargo holds, where the pheromones corrode the aluminum floor.  Corroding aluminum that fast makes the pheromones Class 8.

But we only eat cooked crabs, you may be thinking, so while the pheromones are food-related, we’re not really eating the HazMat.  Conceded.

The U.S. military has applied for, and received, Special Permits for the transport of MREs, Meals Ready to Eat, because the portion of the MRE that heats the meal contains HazMat.  At mealtime, the HazMat is allowed to undergo a controlled chemical reaction, which releases heat to warm the foods.  Again, you probably think, food-related but not eaten.  Again, I concede.

Hot chili peppers are extracted to create self-defense sprays.  But I won’t eat a pepper that hot.

Sometimes, when people are sneezing, wheezing, coughing, gasping, and hacking, they take a multi-ingredient cough and cold syrup.  In order to keep all the medicinal ingredients dissolved and evenly distributed throughout, these syrups may include significant quantities of ethyl alcohol.  So, many times, the sneezers, wheezers, coughers, gaspers, and hackers are drinking flammable liquids, intentionally swallowing HazMat.  And, of course, now that we onto swallowing ethyl alcohol solutions, it’s probably a good time to mention UN3065, the identification number for…, you got it, Alcoholic Beverages.

There’s even a blood thinner tablet with enough warfarin in it at a high enough concentration to make the tablet a 6.1, PG III solid.  When faced with a choice between blood clots and swallowing a known poison…, I think you know what most people choose.  And technically, especially for transport segregation, anything intentionally swallowed by humans or animals is a foodstuff, a.k.a. food.  Ta da.

The “Don’t Do That” first line doesn’t refer to HazMat in relation to your body, since many people do purposefully expose skin, lungs, and stomach to HazMat.  Instead, I’m thinking it is almost certainly unsafe and noncompliant to assume that anything is ‘not possibly HazMat’ just because it’s for application onto or into a human body.  That would be a bad assumption.  Don’t Do That!



Written 9/1/2014 for HCB Magazine