5 Common Chemical Exposure Injuries
Chemicals are used in many different settings – from the home to manufacturing plants to food processing to schools to numerous others. The Toxic Substances Control Act Chemical Substance Inventory lists over 84,000 chemicals used in commerce. There are tens of thousands of emergency incidents involving these chemicals, thousands of injuries, and hundreds of deaths.
Common chemical exposure injuries can have an acute and chronic health effect. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports on one study from 1999-2008 where a total of 57,975 chemical exposure incidents were reported by nine states. Alabama was not among them.
In total, more than 15,506 individuals were injured and 354 deaths occurred.
The Five Chemicals
The five chemicals associated with the most injuries were carbon monoxide, ammonia, chlorine, hydrochloric acid, and sulfuric acid. Among those, carbon monoxide and ammonia caused the most injuries and deaths.
Respiratory irritation was the most common health effects. More of those affected were male (64%) with 36% being female. Company employees were most often injured followed by members of the general public. Also injured were emergency responders, such as firefighters, and police officers.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) – The public largely comes into contact with carbon monoxide in the home. It is a colorless, odorless gas that is found in fumes coming from cars, engines, stoves, grills, fireplace, gas ranges, and furnaces. It can build up and poison anyone who breathes it.
Most recently, news reports have issued warnings about CO poisoning coming from the garage when a driver leaves his car assuming it turned off in a keyless entry car when the driver walks away with the key. It does not. Automobile makers are redesigning the keyless entry feature so the car will automatically turn off or issue an alarm rather than keep idling.
If you are exposed, you may feel tired, have a headache, upset stomach, and feel dizzy. Ultimately, you could pass out unless you are exposed to fresh air. Ongoing exposure can kill you.
Anyone can be affected – from infants to the elderly. More than 400 Americans die from carbon monoxide poisoning every year in the U.S. and 4,000 are hospitalized. Carbon Monoxide detectors are the best bet to prevent injuries.
Ammonia Poisoning – Almost everyone is familiar with the sharp smell of ammonia cleaners, but ammonia may also enter the air from spills in production plants, from tank trucks, pipelines, ships and railcars and from farm fields. Breathing in even low concentrations of ammonia can irritate the throat and cause coughing. A chronic exposure can lead to lung damage.
If exposed, remove your clothes and move to fresh air and wash any ammonia from the skin with plain water and soap and water. Rinse the eyes.
Chlorine Poisoning – Chlorine inhibits bacterial growth in water and is used in swimming pools and even drinking water. It is found in cleaning supplies and is used to sanitize sewage. Exposure to chlorine will cause burning of the mouth and swelling of the throat, difficulty breathing, coughing and fluid inside the lungs.
Seek medical assistance if your child has come in contact with chlorine. Water should flush the chemicals off the skin. Activated charcoal may be used as a treatment and a breathing tube may be placed.
Hydrochloric Acid – This chemical is also known as muriatic acid and it is colorless with a pungent smell. It is strongly acidic and can dissolve many metals. It is frequently used in chemical analysis.
Solutions with muriatic acid can be used as cleaning solutions, though they are mostly diluted. It is also used as a pool sanitizer to help maintain the correct pH level and in food production to acidify sauces and reduce spoilage. Since it is highly corrosive, hydrochloric acid can dissolve tissues on contact, can cause blindness, and severely burn the mouth, throat, esophagus, and stomach.
Sulfuric Acid – Sulfuric acid is a mineral acid and is colorless, odorless liquid that is commonly used in the making of fertilizer, in oil refining, waste water processing, in cleaners, and as an electrolyte in lead-acid batteries. It is used in iron and steelmaking to remove rust and scaling. When it comes in contact with the skin, sulfuric acid can burn and cause blindness in the eyes.
If you have been exposed to one of these chemicals in the workplace or at home, you should call The Mike Bell Firm to explore your options. Whether your exposure was the result of negligence in the workplace, a defective product, or mislabeling of toxins in the home environment, call our Birmingham office at (205) 666-6000 for immediate assistance.