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Chemical hazards

Viimati uuendatud: 25.02.2017

Chemical Hazards

When handling chemical, first the package marking must be checked if it bears any of the below markings:

If the chemical package has any of these markings, the chemical is dangerous.

To decrease the hazard emanating from chemicals, the prevention principle must be applied. This means the prevention of health and environment damage, replacing dangerous substances with less harmful ones, if suitable alternatives exist, and applying safer technologies.

When it comes to the safe handling of chemicals, environment and health are inseparable. The aim is to guarantee a high quality environment that would not cause any health risks, respects also the most sensitive population groups like children, diseased, pregnant, aged; preserves the nature and would not damage property.

Chemicals can enter the organism:

  • with inhaled air – dust, mist, smoke, gas or steam of chemicals;
  • absorbing through skin and mucous membrane (depends on the ability      of chemicals to penetrate through skin) – solvents, aniline, phenol,      etc.;
  • absorbing through the digestive system – after contact with hands,      water and food, but also the dust, mist, smoke, gas, steam or liquid of      chemicals;
  • to a foetus through the mother’s organism – all chemicals that have      entered the organism reach the bloodstream and could damage the foetus.

The effect of chemicals on an organism is very hard to evaluate as chemicals have different ways of entering the organism – inhaling, absorbing through skin and eyes, swallowing, absorbing through placenta, metabolism. Chemicals also have various impacts – acute or long-term, recessive and irreversible, regional or general. Assessing the impact of chemical is complicated due to their joint influence. The concurrence of chemicals cannot be illustrated as 1 + 1 = 2 because many chemicals, when in contact with another one, amplify each other’s hazardous characteristics. A classic example here being the concurrence of asbestos and cigarette smoke; also the concurrence of chemicals used in dry cleaning.

Chemicals can have different hazardous characteristics. Some of the 100,000+ chemicals available on the European Union market could cause malicious tumours, foetal damage, asthma, disorders of the central nervous system, respiratory illnesses, allergic reactions and many other health damages.

Special attention must be paid to substances that are:

  • toxic (marking T);
  • carcinogens (the International Agency for Research of Cancer has      compiled a so-called IARC list (International Agency for Research of      Cancer List of Cancer Causing Chemicals) – it is strongly recommended to      avoid using any chemicals in this list);
  • allergens (pay attention to contact with skin and skin protection);
  • damaging to the reproductive organs;
  • inflammable (comply with fire safety requirements);
  • quantitatively most used;
  • environmentally hazardous.

Chemicals spreading via outside air enter the human organism through the respiratory system, both from the outside and the room air. Both acute and chronical health damages caused by the outside air pollution could arise primarily in the polluted areas. The most significant outside air polluters are industrial exhausts, waste gases and combustion devices’ residue – volatile organic compounds, dust particles or acidic gases (sulphur, nitrogen or carbon oxides).

Chemicals spreading indoors mostly affect people who spend a lot of time inside. Often, the indoor air chemical content exceeds the same ratio in outside air. People tend to forget that dangerous chemicals form during cooking and when smoking a cigarette. House dust absorbs many different chemicals – pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, hydrocarbons, phthalates, phenols and many others. Dust contains lead in rooms that have many artwork covered with lead-containing paints, and in mining areas. Indoor chemical content is increased by different used construction and finishing materials and furniture.

Chemicals Entering the Organism with Drinking Water

The majority of the chemicals which enter the organism through the digestive system are consumed with drinking water. Several chemicals may also absorb into the organism through skin, while swimming. The main polluters of the ground water are agricultural waste (pesticides), and polluted mining water.

Effect of the Contaminated Soil

Soil gets polluted due to agricultural companies, mines and waste water. Through the contaminated soil, chemicals may reach human organisms in crops that have been grown in the contaminated soil.

Legislation Related to Chemicals

The following legislation governs the handling of chemical hazards in the working environment:

  • Occupational health care and occupational safety requirements concerning the safe use of chemicals and materials containing      them
  • Occupational health care and occupational safety requirements for using lead and its’ ionic compounds
  • Occupational health care and occupational safety requirements for handling carcinogenic and mutagenic chemicals
  • Marginal rates of chemical hazard factors in the working environment
  • Occupational health care and occupational safety requirements on the asbestos works

When faced with chemical hazards, it is also important to be familiar with the Chemicals Act requirements prescribing the handling of chemicals: the order of handling chemicals; identification, classification, packaging, marking and taking into consideration; safety requirements for the handler, package and markings; also requirements for the chemicals’ safety data sheet.

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