An Overview of Toxic Chemicals and Their Impacts On Us
Toxic chemicals can be found in our everyday household products. They are nothing to laugh over or shrug off. One small dose of a toxic chemical can do some serious damage on our bodies.
The same can be said for those of you who work with toxic chemicals at your job. Many of you do come in contact with them on a regular basis. Those who do not have the proper education and resources at their disposal, you can get themselves into some serious trouble. You need to know what they are and what you are up against.
There is a difference between a "hazardous" chemical and a "toxic" chemical. You need to know the difference before you can identify how harmful it is for you.
1) "Toxicity" refers to a certain level of harm that is unwanted. When a chemical reaches a certain point in the body it will become toxic. Simply put, the higher the level of toxicity, the more harm it will do.
Say someone ingests something with a low level of toxicity. It is going to take a greater concentration of this chemical to be considered toxic and harmful. Say someone ingests a chemical that is highly pungent and toxic. All it takes is one small dose and the person is harmed in a big way.
2) The term "Hazardous" refers to the probability of this chemical causing harm. There is a difference. A chemical can have a low toxic rate and a high hazardous rate.
1) Say one person has an open container of acid. Say another person has a closed container. The open one is going to be considered "more hazardous".
2) Say there are two liquids involving acids. They may appear to be the same thing. However, one can present a higher level of hazard than the other one.
3) There may be one chemical that presents a high level of harm to the eyes and nose, especially those with respiratory issues. There may be a second one alongside of it. The second one may not be as harmful due to the warming properties.
A good rule of thumb: Chemicals that can cause immediate harm to the outside or the inside of the body are considered more harmful.
How the chemicals enter the body
This is another deciding factor when it comes to recognizing which chemicals are either toxic or hazardous.
1) You may ingest it. All you have to do is eat your food and drink your beverage in a contaminated area and you are infected. Some of you may not know this. Is this considered toxic or hazardous? It depends on what the chemical is and how much has been ingested.
2) You can have something get into your eyes or on your skin. This should not be taken lightly. Any open sore is a source for the chemical to get into your body. Once it is in, it can do some damage. You need to have it looked at right away.
3) You can take something in by your lungs. All you have to do is be in the same room. That is all it takes sometimes. Airborne contamination is one of the most common routes for chemicals to flow.
4) Some of you may be injecting something into your body without knowing it. Does your job require you to deal with needles and injections? Pay close attention to this then.
Chronic vs. Acute, which one is worse?
First, we must look at the difference between short-term and long-term effects. Spilling acid on yourself accidentally has an immediate impact. This is a short-term thing. Inhaling asbestos can show up in your body after 20-30 years. Inhaling second-hand smoke can also wait a few years. You can be living with someone who smokes for 5 years. The impacts that you could feel may not hit you until 20 years down the road. It takes this long sometimes. It is better to be aware of the risks now.
Chronic refers to be exposed on a regular basis. This can mean both daily and weekly. It can hit you all at once. It can hit you sparingly over a period of months and years. Those of you who are going through this right now, I know what you are going through. Situations that I was placed in 20 years ago, I am just starting to feel the impacts now.
Acute refers to chemicals that have a short run. They come, they hit and they move on. That is as far as it goes. Consider yourself lucky when you only have a passing time with any harmful and toxic chemical.
What are the potential health risks?
The risks involve a number of factors.
1) What type of chemical did you inhale, absorb or ingest? Some are more toxic than others. Some are more hazardous than others.
2) What was the amount? This also relates to the first factor. Some amounts will only do a minimum of damage. Others will do a lot of damage.
3) When did this happen to you? Time of day does something to with it. How long were you exposed to it? Some you may have only had a very short exposure. Some of you may have had a longer exposure. Sometimes a person can have a short exposure with a very harmful chemical. Has this happened to you? In this case, you have been infected with a hazardous chemical. As mentioned before, all it takes is one small dose of a very hazardous chemical to do some major damage.
4) How did the exposure happen? Did you ingest alone? Did you have food and water with it? Sometimes ingesting something along with it can weaken the impact.
5) Your age and general health have a big impact too. Those of you who do not have the greatest health run the risk of something major happening.
How is your health affected?
It all depends on the situation. There are some of the more common occurrences.
1) Organ damage is right up there. Those of you who work with chemicals daily need to find out how good of shape your organs are in. They may become infected without your knowledge.
2) Your immune system will go down. The amount and severity all depend on what situation you are in.
3) You may have issues with your mental faculties. You may have issues with your physical state and development. Those of you who are expecting a child may be passing it along. You may even get cancer at some point.
How can you reduce the risks of toxic chemical exposure?
Those of you who are exposed to chemicals for a living may have a harder time with this, but there are a few steps you can take.
1) Read and follow all the instructions to the letter.
2) Get some ventilation going whenever possible.
3) Only use the chemicals when you need to. Keep them out of a child's reach. Do not go outside when the air quality is poor.
Take-Home Message: The less you expose yourself to the possibilities; the less likely you are to get sick, especially at work.