The word “chemicals” reminds most of us of danger. We try to eliminate chemicals from foods, health products, lotions, detergents, clothing, etc. The list could go on and on, you name an item and there is probably an organic or chemical-free version somewhere on the market. However, even with an emphasis on environmentally friendly, chemical-free products there are still many uses for certain types of chemicals, especially when it comes to industrial activities. For instance, many industrial grade cleaners utilize the help of chemicals to rid rust build-up or assist with eliminating corrosion.
Uses of Chemicals
Chemicals are still used for a wide variety of practices. Let’s review some of the most commonly used chemicals and the possible health risks associated with use.
- Benzene: Often found in items such as crude oil and gasoline and may be utilized in the production of dyes, pesticides, lubricants, other chemicals, etc. Benzene has been known to increase the risk for cancer as well as bone marrow failure. Benzene targets organs such as the brain, heart, kidney, and liver and is considered a human carcinogen.
- Acetone: This chemical is usually used as a solvent but also serves other purposes as a chemical intermediate. One of the most common household uses of acetone is in fingernail polish remover and it is also utilized effectively to remove super glue products as well. This can also be found in the production of ketones. Acetone is extremely flammable and can be toxic if ingested. Inhalation of acetone can also irritate the mucous membranes and depress the central nervous system.
- Ammonia: This is a common chemical used in both fertilizer and explosives due to its nitrogen levels. Ammonia can also be found in various household cleaners as it usually elicits a streak-free clean on surfaces such as glass, metal, and porcelain. High concentrations of ammonia can be dangerous for human beings and may cause respiratory failure, blindness, or burning of the skin.
- Hydrofluoric Acid: This type of powerful acid is used in oil refineries, and in the production of organofluorine compounds and fluorides. This type of chemical is capable of causing severe, irreversibly damage to the human lungs and eyes. It is also capable of causing burns as well as contributes towards cardiac arrest due to systemic toxicity.
Protection against Chemicals
Since many chemicals have the ability to injure the human body, it is important to take action in order to prevent bodily harm. The use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is a great way to ensure protection. PPE provides a barrier between the chemical or hazardous substance and the body. Some common types of PPE used in chemical situations include air respirators, face shields, non-vented goggles, protective clothing, and chemical protective gloves such as nitrile, butyl rubber, Viton, etc depending upon the chemicals being handled.
When it comes to chemical safety, the more protection used is usually better. Chemicals can typically cause damage quickly and before you even realize something bad is happening the damage could already be done. Educate yourself on the proper protection needed when working with chemicals.
- Chemical Safety in the Workplace and SDS (Safety Data Sheets)
- Effective Skin Protection against Chemical Spills
- EPA: Tighter Chemical Restrictions Underway
- How to Handle Chemical Spills
- Lab Safety Symbols
- Chemical Safety: No Room for Accidents
- Safety Hazard in Disguise – Acetone
- 7 Tips for Safely Responding to Chemical Spills in the Workplace