FORT BRAGG,N.C. - National Pollution Prevention Week is Sept. 17 through 23. This year, the observance emphasizes "Safer Chemicals for a Safer World."

Why are chemicals a cause for concern?

Within 26 seconds of a person's exposure to chemicals, traces of these chemicals can be found in every organ in the body. Consequences of prolonged exposure to and bioaccumulation of chemicals range from skin irritation to cancer and from allergic reactions to neurological disorders.

Yet the presence of chemicals in our environment is prolific. There are 70,000 synthetic chemicals currently in production but only 600 of those chemicals have been adequately tested for their effects on public health. On average, each individual uses 25 gallons of chemicals every year.

So how can we live in a world full of chemicals and maintain a healthy environment? The proper use, storage and disposal of chemicals are vital to that balance.

The proper use of chemicals
Use safe cleaners such as baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and Castile (vegetable based) soap instead of chemical cleaners where appropriate.

Purchase the least toxic versions of chemical substances. Choose water based or biobased products when they are available. More than 2,700 household and industrial cleaning products carry the EPA design for the environment seal, which indicates that the ingredients in a product are not detrimental to personal health nor the environment. Other environmentally preferred products include Green Seal certified products and EcoLogo certified products.

Beware of "green washing." Although labels may claim that a product is "organic" or "natural," always read the ingredients list and avoid these common chemicals: ammonia, ammonium hydroxide, bleach, chlorine, formaldehyde, hydrochloric acid, lye, naphtha, nitrobenzene, perchlorethylene, petroleum distillates, phenols, propylene glycol, sodium hypochlorite, sodium laurel sulfate, phosphates and trichloroethane.

Units and directorates on Fort Bragg should purchase chemicals and hazardous materials only from approved sources such as the HazMart at the Self-Service Supply Center. Government purchase card holders are required to purchase all Class III hazardous materials (flammable or combustible liquids) and paint from the HazMart.

Purchase only the amount of chemicals, paints or other materials needed to complete each task to avoid gathering an excess inventory of hazardous materials and increasing exposure to chemical substances as well as costly disposal fees.

Always use the proper personal protective equipment when handling chemicals and hazardous materials.

Units should always use wash racks, oil/water separators and parts washers in accordance with Fort Bragg environmental regulations. Wash racks and oil/water separators are not approved secondary containment devices. Never store hazardous materials on or near wash racks, oil/water separators or storm drains.

Never mix chemicals.
Proper storage of chemicals
Create and maintain an inventory of all the chemicals used or stored in your facilities. Ensure that every chemical in your facility is accompanied by a material safety data sheet.

Store and label all chemicals properly in accordance with Fort Bragg environmental regulations.
Always store chemicals in a cool, dry and secure place.

Do not store chemicals in receptacles other than their original containers.

Secondary containment is required for all liquid hazardous materials. Secondary containment must provide containment for 110 percent of the largest container or 10 percent of the total volume, whichever is greater. Acceptable secondary containment devices include hazardous material storage units, containment pallets, fireproof lockers and sealed rooms.

Storing incompatible materials in the same containment area may cause hazardous materials to react violently and create fire, heat, poisonous gas emissions and personal injury. Separate strong acids from strong bases and flammable liquids from corrosives.

Proper disposal of chemicals
Never dispose of hazardous materials, controlled materials or hazardous wastes in trash bins or in drains. When they are not disposed of properly, these substances can infiltrate the ground or water to create pollution and associated public health concerns.

Arrange for collection or disposal of controlled materials and hazardous wastes in accordance with Fort Bragg regulations. The Fort Bragg Hazardous Waste Reclamation Office accepts all types of chemicals and hazardous wastes with the exception of biological wastes and radioactive materials. Common accepted materials include aerosol spray cans, batteries, automotive fluids, paint, cleaners, lawn and garden chemicals, compact fluorescent lights, used oil and gasoline.

For more information or to schedule an appointment for disposal, call 396.2141. The HWRO is located in Building 3-1137 in the Directorate of Public Works campus off Reilly Road, just before to the entrance to Pope Field.

Picerne Military Housing accepts fluorescent light bulbs at neighborhood centers. Household chemicals and petroleum products are accepted in sealed and labeled containers at the Picerne warehouse in Building 6-9357 on the corner of Honeycutt Road and South Lucas Drive on Fridays from 2 until 4:15 p.m.

Report spills or other incidents to the HWRO immediately. Any spill involving fuels, solvents, oxidizers, acids, highly flammable materials or any spill over five gallons requires immediate notification of the Fort Bragg Fire Department and the HWRO. Any spill which enters a storm drain or sewer system or waterway requires immediate notification of the Fort Bragg Fire Department and the HWRO as well.

For questions and concerns, contact the Fort Bragg Hazardous Waste Reclamation Office at 396-2141 or the Compliance assessment team at 907-2795.