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What Are the Health Risks of Chemical Exposure in the Workplace?

Health Risks of Chemical Exposure in the Workplace

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Call (888) 590-4030 if you need medical assistance after exposure to hazardous substances on the job. 

People encounter chemicals and materials that negatively affect the human body daily. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Labor, 89% of service-providing industry members and 70% of healthcare and social assistance workers experienced chemical exposure in 2020. However, even clean industries, like the technology sector, are at risk of exposure to chemicals.

Short- and long-term exposure to toxic chemicals can leave lasting damage to your body and well-being. Working with a workers’ comp doctor in NYC from our directory can set you on a path to wellness and healing. 

Common Health Hazards in the Workplace

Each year, American workers experience over 190,000 illnesses and 50,000 deaths from chemical exposure. The chemicals can enter the body through the following methods:

  • Inhalation or breathing
  • Ingestion or swallowing
  • Skin or eye contact

The contact method varies because chemicals can be liquid, dust, gas, fibers, mists, vapors, or solids. Over 35% of workplace illnesses and injuries in 2020 were due to exposure to harmful substances and environments.

Below are some of the most common chemicals in many workplaces.


Solvents are usually liquids, but they can be solids or gas. The most common solvents are cleaning solutions, such as bleach, acetone, and ammonia. You can also find solvents in everyday materials, including:

  • Paints
  • Lacquers
  • Pesticides
  • Printing materials

Exposure to solvents through skin contact can lead to irritations like blistering or rashes. However, exposure to other chemicals through ingestion or inhalation can cause more severe health problems. 

For instance, perchloroethylene and methylene chloride contain cancer-causing properties. High levels of toxic glycol ethers, which are in many liquid soaps and cosmetics, can cause reproductive problems, including birth defects.


Common workplace gases include carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and volatile organic compound (VOC) vapors. Inhaling them over long periods can result in a heart attack or damage to the brain, kidneys, and central nervous system. Short-term effects range from nausea to headaches.

Acids and Alkalies

Tech industry workers often use acids and alkalies for soldering, metal picking, and crystal polishing. Short-term exposure to these materials can cause burns to the eyes and skin. If you inhale acid or alkaline vapors, they can burn or irritate your throat, mouth, nose, and lungs.


If you work around many metals, you could be susceptible to metal dust and fumes. The particles might burn if they get on your skin or inside your nose.

Exposure to metal particles and vapors can cause significant health problems, including: 

  • General malaise
  • Headaches
  • Anemia
  • Central nervous system problems
  • Kidney damage

Types of Chemical Exposure Health Effects

Workplace chemical exposure can result in chronic or acute health problems.

Chronic health effects sometimes result from long-term exposure to toxic materials. Even if you eliminate the problem in the work environment, affected workers may continue dealing with the aftermath of the exposure. Cancer is an example of a chronic health issue.

Acute health effects produce immediate symptoms after short-term exposure. For instance, if you are working with ammonia in an enclosed space, you might experience dizziness or throat irritation. However, the symptoms will diminish when you remove yourself from the enclosed area with the ammonia.

Hazardous chemical exposure can produce chronic and acute health problems. It depends on the chemical, exposure method, frequency, and dosage.

For instance, ethanol in alcoholic beverages will cause intoxication, which produces symptoms like loss of coordination, headache, and dizziness. However, prolonged alcohol abuse can cause liver damage.

Best Practices To Avoid Exposure to Toxic Materials

The best way to minimize or eliminate the effects of chemical exposure is to use safe handling practices for all potentially harmful substances. Employees working with toxic, caustic, or volatile chemicals must receive training to handle, store, and transport them. Workers should also receive training to mitigate accidental chemical exposure.

Don Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment or PPE are items that shield your body from chemicals. It’s imperative to use PPE, like goggles, gloves, and respirators, to prevent splashes, vapors, and dust from touching your eyes and skin or getting inside your body through your nose or mouth.

Demand a Safe Work Environment 

Your workplace should foster a safe work environment, especially when employees must deal with harmful substances. Employers are responsible for providing sufficient PPE and related equipment to reduce the risk of chemical exposure. That includes providing appropriately ventilated spaces, eye wash stations, showers, and chemical fume hoods.

Not every job will have the same safety equipment. A facility will adjust its procedures and policies to mitigate exposure to harmful chemicals according to the materials employees encounter while working.

Find a “Workers’ Comp Doctor Near Me” With Our Directory

Find a Workers' Comp Doctor Near Me

Chemical exposure on the job is more common than you may think. However, you can receive proper medical care and assistance with your workers’ compensation case with the help of experienced workers’ comp doctors from our directory. 

Doctors in our directory accept most insurance plans, including workers’ compensation, no-fault, and PIP (personal injury protection). For more details about our Workers’ Comp Doctor directory and help with the aftermath of your workplace chemical exposure, call (888) 590-4030 and explore our list of experienced and knowledgeable physicians and specialists serving New York and the Tri-state area. Same-day appointments may be available. 

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