Does your job expose you to potentially dangerous chemicals? You’re not alone. OSHA estimates that 32 million Americans work with or are exposed to toxic chemicals. What’s more, many workers are unaware of potentially hazardous chemicals in their workplace.
Common Workplace Chemicals
Some workers may not realize they work with dangerous chemicals. These are some of the most common hazardous chemicals found in the workplace.
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Acids and bases
How Chemicals Enter Your Body
Chemicals such as these have the potential to make you sick when they enter your body. Four ways that they can enter your body are skin or eye contact, injection, ingestion, and inhalation.
Skin Or Eye Contact
The CDC estimates that over 13 million American workers have jobs that put their skin or eyes at risk of hazardous chemical exposure. This includes jobs in agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, and construction.
When a chemical enters your body through a cut, crack, or wound in your skin, such as an accidental puncture wound from a syringe, it is known as an injection.
You wouldn’t eat or drink a toxic chemical on purpose, but you might unintentionally ingest (swallow) a chemical if your hands or food were contaminated.
Some chemicals form toxic gases, aerosols, vapors, mists, smoke, dust, fumes, and fibers that can contaminate the air you breathe in.
Effects of Toxic Chemicals On Your Body
Toxic chemical exposure may result in immediate (acute) injuries or cause severe long-term (chronic) effects with time.
Common Acute Chemical Exposure Injuries
The most common types of injuries from workplace chemicals are:
- Chemical burns
- Lung injuries
- Nerve damage
- Eye injuries
Some chemicals also have the potential to cause serious workplace accidents such as fires and explosions.
Long-Term Effects Of Chemical Exposure
Although deaths from chemical accidents are becoming rarer in Massachusetts, exposure to hazardous chemicals can lead to chronic illness and even death many years later. Cancer, reproductive problems, respiratory problems, and organ damage are examples of illnesses that can develop as a result of chemical exposure.
Chemicals are called “carcinogenic” when they are known to cause cancer. One well-known carcinogenic chemical is asbestos, which has been linked with mesothelioma, cancer that forms in the lining of the lungs, heart, and abdomen.
Chemical exposure may make you unable to have children or put your child at greater risk of birth injury or birth defects. Some common chemicals that are known to disrupt male and female reproductive healthcare insecticides, lead, and benzene.
Inhalation of toxic chemicals may cause you to develop chronic lung disease. Asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, and pulmonary fibrosis are examples of respiratory problems that can result from inhaling toxic chemicals.
Being exposed to hazardous chemicals may damage your internal organs, such as your liver, kidneys, or spleen. This can cause them to stop functioning correctly and may cause you to develop hepatitis, and immune disease, kidney disease, or certain cancers.
How To Prevent Toxic Chemical Exposure
The first step in preventing exposure to hazardous chemicals is to follow the safety protocols established by OSHA. OSHA maintains that the most effective method of preventing chemical exposure is to eliminate the chemical from the workplace entirely, substituting them with safer alternatives.
If that is not possible, OSHA advises that workplaces implement controls to minimize worker contact with the chemicals, rotate work schedules so workers are not overexposed, and require the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce worker exposure.
What To Do If You’ve Been Exposed To A Toxic Chemical At Work
If you believe you’ve been exposed to a hazardous chemical at work, notify your supervisor and seek medical attention right away. Be sure to tell your doctor that you were exposed to a toxic chemical.
Write down how the exposure occurred and the name of the chemical, if you know it. If anyone else at your workplace witnessed the exposure, take down their names and contact information.
Then, consult with a chemical injury lawyer to determine the next steps you should take. If you sustained an injury or have developed symptoms as a result of chemical exposure, you may be entitled to fair compensation for your medical bills or other losses. Please contact us today to learn more about your options.