We don’t really think about it, but we come into contact with chemicals every day. Some chemicals are safe, while others are not. Harmful chemicals can cause damage if we breathe, eat, drink, or even absorb them through our skin.
Everyone responds to chemical exposure differently. Some people may never experience ill effects, while others more sensitive to exposure may become very sick. Chemical exposure can have acute effects, or may cause injury over long periods of time (also known as chronic exposure).
As indicated from the CDC, several factors may play into your reaction to chemical exposure, including:
- The kind of chemical you were exposed to
- How much of a chemical you were exposed to
- How long you were in contact with the chemical
- How often you were exposed to the chemical
- How it entered your body (e.g., skin, ingested, breathed in)
- Your general state of health
Harmful Chemicals and the Workplace
Some occupations are more hazardous than others, and some are more likely to result in a workplace injury due to chemical exposure. Employers are bound by law to provide you with a safe and healthy workplace. If you work in the presence of toxic chemicals, employers are required to tell you so. Information about these chemicals is available in Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs). An MSDS will tell you how to appropriately handle a specific chemical, and what to do if you’re accidentally exposed to it. An MSDS will list reactivity and potential side effects, long-term effects on health, proper disposal, and the required protective equipment.
Your employer may also post warning signs about dangerous chemicals, especially in areas with poor ventilation.
Reducing Your Exposure to Toxins in the Workplace
There are steps you can take to reduce and even prevent dangerous exposure to chemicals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following:
- Substitution. In some cases, there may be a substitution for the chemical your company uses. Ask a supervisor if there’s a less hazardous alternative available.
- Isolation. Preventing exposure to dangerous chemicals is all about isolating the substance from contact with your body. Examples of isolation include machine guards, glove boxes, electrical insulation, and remote controlled equipment.
- Ventilation. The danger of an airborne substance can be minimized by providing appropriate ventilation, which may be achieved in one of two ways: by diluting the toxic air with an uncontaminated stream of fresh air, or by capturing the contaminant at its source (e.g., a filter).
- Administrative Measures. Managers can minimize employee exposure by rotating shifts or reducing the amount of hazardous work hours.
- Personal Protective Measures. In addition to any company-furnished gear, consider taking an additional precaution by using a personal ventilator or protective clothing.
When it comes to safety in your workplace, knowledge is your most powerful weapon. Ask your employer for copies of all MSDSs to prepare yourself for hazards. Know what to do in an emergency situation to minimize your risk. If you believe you’ve been exposed to a dangerous amount of chemicals, seek medical attention immediately.
Dangerous Chemicals at Home
The workplace isn’t the only area where you may be exposed to chemicals. Even your home may have undisclosed risks. Here are some examples:
- Lead and asbestos. Homes built prior to 1978 may contain these two chemicals, which can lead to ill health effects such as brain damage and cancer.
- Black mold. Homes can contain black mold from flooding or water damage. Exposure to this mold can lead to chronic respiratory problems
- Radon. Homes can have this odorless radioactive gas. Prolonged exposure can lead to cancer.
Call an Austin Chemical Burn Lawyer about Possible Exposure
If you’ve been injured because of chemical exposure in the workplace, at home or while on someone’s property, hire a personal injury attorney to fight for your rights. Contact our office today at Briggle & Polan, PLLC in Austin for a free initial consultation. 512-472-1926