5 Common Chemical Exposure Injuries


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the top five chemicals that are associated with injury are carbon monoxide, ammonia, chlorine, hydrochloric acid, and sulfuric acid.

The CDC took a ten-year look at chemical exposure in nine states, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.   Because there are so many chemicals humans come in contact with, with about 80,000 total chemicals used in commerce, the government has a registry called the Toxic Substances Control Act Chemical Substance Inventory.

During the ten-year period in those states there were 57,975 chemical incidents which resulted in 15,506 injuries and 354 deaths. A quarter of the deaths were attributed to these five chemicals.

Schools, homes, and the workplace are where you are most likely to be exposed through breathing, ingesting or direct skin contact.

Chemicals Are Everywhere

There seems to be no slowing down of the production of chemicals used every day in industry and in the home.

At last count, among the 80,000 total chemicals that have been produced, most have not been adequately tested for their toxicity to human and animal health.

In other words, we often do not recognize the dangers they pose until after they have been released into the environment when it is much more costly, if not impossible, to clean up.  

Checking for human, animal, and environmental toxicity of chemicals before they are released makes much more sense fiscally and physically.

Among the top five – carbon monoxide and ammonia caused the most injuries.

Top Five Chemical Exposures

Carbon Monoxide: You tend to find carbon monoxide (CO) in private residences and in fumes that come from a running engine, a gas range, or furnace. Even grills and lanterns can put off CO. CO is colorless and odorless and the gas fumes can build up causing headache, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, weakness, chest pain, and confusion. The symptoms are often described as feeling flu-like. Every year 400 Americans died from CO poisoning after exposure to high levels. The best protection against Carbon Monoxide is to have a CO detector in the home.

Ammonia: Ammonia is a colorless gas used for household cleaning, agriculture, and as a refrigerant in food manufacturing. When it is exposed to air it can turn into a gas which causes irritation and serious burns in high levels, even death. In the CDC data, half of the toxic exposures occurred in agriculture and food manufacturing.

Chlorine: The majority of chlorine injuries in the studies occurred in the paper manufacturing process and in swimming pools. Chlorine is a toxic gas which can irritate nose, eye and throat. At high levels, coughing, chest pain, and vomiting may occur, even death.

Hydrochloric Acid: This is a highly clear, colorless, strong mineral acid used to manufacture fertilizer, dyes, rubber, and metal.  It is also used in household cleaners and pool cleaning. Upon human exposure, it can corrode tissue, eyes, skin, and intestines. The majority of injuries from this acid occurred in transportation and warehousing.

Sulfuric Acid: Also known as battery acid, this clear, colorless oily liquid is used to make fertilizers, explosives, and glue. It is able to injure skin and eyes in a high concentration and can cause permanent blindness. In the database, injuries commonly occurred in manufacturing.

None of the above takes into consideration the drugs and chemicals that are routinely dumped into our oceans. When salmon was caught in the Puget Sound, for example, it was found with 81drugs including Zoloft, Prozac, OxyContin, nicotine, and anticoagulants, among others. Wastewater treatment facilities do not filter out all drugs that are eliminated by humans or dumped as trash.

We are also discovering bees are experiencing colony collapse which leads to their death. It is believed that a pesticide, known as neonicotinoids, weakens and kills honeybees. Homeowners routinely apply these pesticides to the garden and lawn where children play, yet they are banned in other countries. 

Awareness is increasing about flame retardants, routinely used in furniture, food packaging, and antibacterial sanitizers. Triclosan is known to impart antibiotic resistance.

If you believe you have been exposed to a chemical in the workplace, please obtain medical help immediately, then call the Montgomery, Alabama office of personal injury attorney Chip Nix to consider your legal options.

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