Whether we like it or not, chemicals are a part of our lives. There about 7 million chemicals known worldwide and at least 400 million tons produced every year for power production, agriculture chemicals, pharmaceuticals, chemical consumer products and the like.
Sadly, there is only little or nothing known about the potential immediate and long-term health effects of the majority of chemicals being used in the workplace. The chemicals that are simply disposed into the environment can lead to severe human and environmental problems too.
How Chemicals Harm Us
Chemicals commonly used in the workplace can be described by how they affect workers and the physical forms they may have. These chemicals can harm us by entering our bodies through –
- Skin Absorption
- Lung Inhalation
- Mouth Ingestion
Once they enter our bodies, they can trigger several harmful effects. Among these are acute or immediate effects and chronic or long-term effects that often show after a number of years. Depending on the route of exposure and the nature of chemicals, they can produce local and systematic effects.
How Exposure Leads To Accidents
Higher rates of workplace accidents are on the rise due to the exposure to toxic chemicals, as reaction time slows down when the nervous system is affected and only a limited amount of oxygen reaches the lungs. Slow reactions can be fatal at times when faced in a dangerous situation that requires an immediate response. Whenever accidents happen in the workplace, the employees are blamed for being careless. As such, it is important to learn about the chemicals you work with, the safety measures enforced and your rights.
Forms of Chemicals And The Damages They Cause
There are five main physical forms of chemicals that are toxic – dusts, solids, vapors, liquids and gases.
Any employee can be exposed to chemical dusts in their original form or processed dusts. The great danger in handling chemical dusts is that they can easily be inhaled. Once inhaled, these dusts can trigger a variety of serious health conditions. In fact, dusts are so hazardous that at certain conditions, they can explode, thus making effective safety control measures crucial to maintain dusts at safe levels.
This chemical form is the least likely to cause chemical poisoning, though there are some solids that can trigger poisoning when ingested. As such, personal hygiene is needed to prevent the ingestion of chemical solids. Since these solids can also give off toxic vapors and dusts that can be inhaled, employers enforce effective control measures to follow when chemical solids are handled in processes that can make them more hazardous.
These tiny droplets of liquid that are suspended in the air can be inhaled. Unfortunately, they can also be toxic. Chemical vapors can irritate the skin and skin, while some types of vapors are flammable. This is why employers provide safety gear for workers to wear in order to prevent them from being exposed to vapors from solids, liquids and other chemical forms.
Liquid chemicals give off vapors that can be inhaled and absorbed by skin. They are toxic and can cause eye damage and burns when accidentally spilled or splashed. When absorbed by the skin, they can cause skin damage and internal health condition. As such the need to eliminate or reduce the risk of inhalation and skin exposure is crucial when handling liquid chemicals.
At normal temperatures, some chemicals are in the form of gas and some only become gases when they are heated in liquid and solid forms. These gases can be odorless and colorless, but they can also have colors and strong odors. Since they can be inhaled, they produce immediate effects such as irritation. Serious damage to health is only evident after a certain period.
- The Problem
The number one problem among many employers, is their lack of awareness towards the hazards associated with toxic chemicals, the proper way to dispose chemical wastes and the effective safety measures needed when handled chemicals. In the event of a workplace accident, employees can hold their employers liable for the negligence leading to the accident. Lawsuits will call for “a prompt and thorough investigation, bringing in accident reconstruction specialists, engineers, industrial safety experts and other professionals as necessary to show how the company was negligent.” says http://tadnelsonlaw.com/ . As a matter of fact, their negligence can also trigger a greater problem when they dump chemical waste into the environment. Improperly disposed waste can contaminate food and water.
It is also important to avoid accidentally bringing workplace chemicals home and poisoning your family, Make sure to wash or shower and change into a set of new clothes before leaving work. When washing your clothes at home, never mix them with the other laundry, as they should be washed separately.
Valerie Terger is a freelance writer specializing in various criminal cases, relationship and family legal affairs, and the latest apps and devices used in legal matters.