There are over seven million different known chemicals in the world but hardly anyone knows their long term effect to our health. They have become a part of our daily lives so much that we have depended a lot on their use for example we need fertilizers and pesticides for a bountiful agricultural harvest; laboratories continue to churn out drugs for our health and well being; food additives have become an essential ingredient in food production; and we use fuel to generate much needed power. We also depend on chemicals to manufacture various consumer products we simply cannot do without.
Unfortunately, we are faced with the frightening fact that we continue to use and develop chemicals with hardly any knowledge of their long term effect on human health. Workers continue to work with or be exposed to chemicals that may be potentially hazardous to their health. In some underdeveloped countries, workers are made to handle known hazardous chemicals without protective gear.
Prolonged exposure to some of these chemicals may result to chemical poisoning which may ultimately lead to a disease or personal injury.
What is Chemical Poisoning?
Chemical poisoning happens when toxic substances and solvents are absorbed by the body and negatively impair normal organ function. Once absorbed by the body, they can do extensive damage to the internal organs particularly to the liver. Of the millions of chemicals both natural and synthetic that is known today, 3,000 of them have been identified to significantly harm human health.
While it is easy to diagnose and determine accidental chemical poisoning at home, poisoning due to prolonged exposure to different potentially toxic substances in a workplace is more difficult to diagnose with the damage even harder to assess.
Common Types of Chemical Poisoning at the Work Place
The use of hazardous chemicals at the work place is governed by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) which details the proper handling of said substances to include the placement of safety mechanisms and use of proper protective gear. However despite the safety measures in place accidents may still occur due to negligence. Below are some of the more common chemical poisonings that occur at the work place.
- Arsenic Poisoning — In large doses, Arsenic can be fatal. In small doses and through prolonged exposure, it can lead to a range of illnesses from liver damage, to cancer, to skin irritations, to respiratory and circulatory problems. Arsenic is used in wood treatment, wood preservative, manufacture of semiconductors and other electronic components, production of non ferrous metal alloys, and in metal foundry and smelting processes. Workers of these various industries are constantly at risk with Arsenic poisoning.
- Chromium Poisoning – Chromium is commonly found in steel manufacturing, textile pigments and the chrome plating industry.
- Benzene Poisoning — Benzene has been traditionally used in the manufacture of plastic, explosives and rubber. Its ill effects are widely known as a result it is highly regulated.
- Methyl tertiary-butyl ether, or MTBE — used as an additive for unleaded gas to reduce emission. It is also used in drug preparations to dissolve gall stones.
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning — Carbon Monoxide is a toxic gas that is produced when burning certain materials.
- Dioxin Poisoning — Dioxins are by products of industrial processes and are deemed as environmental pollutants. They have a half life of 7 to 11 years and once inside the body they stay for some time. They have an adverse effect on several body organs and systems.
- Toluene Exposure — A colorless liquid used in paint, thinners, printing, and adhesive. Prolonged exposure may cause death.
- PCB related Illnesses — Polychlorinated Biphenyl are compounds with high resistance to heat and electricity and have been used as dielectric filler liquids for transformers, capacitors, starters of fluorescent lights, capacitors, and switch gear. Its use has been discontinued since 1976.
These are but a few of the toxic substances workers in the various industries using them are exposed to on a daily basis. If there is negligence on the part of the employers leading illness or injury, the workers may file a compensation claim. However, you will need medical evidence to support the claim. You may even be required to submit detailed medical evidence from a medical professional to prove that the condition you are making a claim for is caused by prolonged exposure to a particular toxic substance.