Exposure to toxic substances is particularly harmful for industrial workers who may have been exposed to high levels of toxins over a long period of time, with or without being aware of the risks. Industrial workers have high incidences of Mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases. However, asbestos and other toxic substances can even harm people who just live or work in a contaminated building. Children are also at great risk of exposure to toxic substances, as their play habits can put them in direct contact with harmful toxins. This is particularly true of lead paint, as children often play with or even ingest harmful lead paint particles. Exposure to each of this Toxic substances can be causing illness and even death to thousands of people of all ages.
In our industrialized society, the government and corporations release a huge variety of petroleum products, hazardous waste, radioactive materials, heavy metals, pesticides and other toxic substances into our environment. These poisons lead to immediate death in some cases. In many other cases, diseases caused by exposure to toxic substances may not appear for years.
The following chemicals are commonly found in construction and industrial settings. They should never be used without protective clothing and breathing protection. To easily learn how dangerous the following chemicals are ask your local dump operator how to legally dispose of them
Benzene causes leukemia. It is commonly found in construction solvents, as well as paints, inks, adhesives, rubbers, glues, stain removers, and furniture wax. It has been used as an antiknock additive in gasoline. Rubber workers exposed to benzene had a tenfold increase in leukemia. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends workers should not be exposed to 1 parts per ten million. Gasoline fumes have 1,000 times the concentration recommended by NIOSH.
Polyvinyl chloride, a plastic used in pipe, electrical wire and cable, home furnishings, toys, packaging, upholstery and auto parts, is made from vinyl chloride. It causes liver cancer, with a latency period is 15 to 40 years. Never inhale smoke from burning foam or plastic, such as in a car fire, and never dispose of these materials in a scrap fire or fireplace.
Methylene chloride is a popular solvent for resins, fats, and waxes and is used in paint, thinners, removers, adhesives, film, plastics, inks, foams, hairsprays, air fresheners, and printed circuit boards. Exposed workers have an increased incidence of pancreatic and liver cancer deaths. It produces malignant liver and lung neoplasms in animals. EPA considers it a probable human carcinogen.
Trichloroethylene (TCE) is used for degreasing metal parts. It has been found in typewriter correction fluids, paint removers and strippers, adhesives, and spot removers. TCE in mice produces liver and lung tumors, kidney cancers, testicular tumors and leukemia in rats. Exposed workers have a high incidence of bladder cancer and lymphomas. It is probably a human carcinogen.
Tetrachloroethylene and perchloroethylene have been used in dry cleaning, degreasing metal, suede protectors, paint removers, water repellents, silicone lubricants, adhesives, spot removers, wood cleaners and many products used by hobbyists. In studies of rats and mice, liver and kidney cancers and leukemia have been produced at a sufficient level to cause EPA to classify it as an animal carcinogen and a probable human carcinogen. Old cans of spot remover contain this material.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) include 209 related chemicals and are found in transformers manufactured before 1977, older welding equipment, x-ray machines, refrigerators and in fluorescent light fixtures. In laboratory tests PCBs cause liver, pituitary, and gastrointestinal tumors, as well as leukemia and lymphomas. EPA considers PCBs probable human carcinogens.
Methyl Ethyl Ketone
MEK is a colorless, volatile, organic solvent with a pleasant pungent odor akin to lacquer thinner. It is commonly used as a cleaning solvent in construction. Chronic inhalation of MEK vapors at concentrations in the range of 100-300 PPM and higher is toxic to the adult central nervous system. Headache, dizziness, and mental confusion are common early signs of MEK's neurotoxic potential. MEK also has the peculiar property of potentiating the neurotoxicity of other organic solvents. MEK has a remarkable ability to enter the body through intact human skin. Animal developmental toxicology studies on MEK in peer-reviewed literature show it is fetotoxic; it has the capacity to interfere with normal fetal growth and development. If this occurs throughout gestation can actually cause much more devastating and irreparable harm, especially if the affected system is the developing central nervous system.
MEK's fetotoxic ability is dose-dependent, with the nature and extent of fetal harm increasing as the daily dose and the duration of exposure increases. The animal toxicology studies on MEK are all large, well-designed studies and all demonstrate significant dose-related fetotoxicity, namely intra-uterine growth retardation. As a result, the U.S. EPA set a "reference dose" of .3 PPM for human inhalation exposure to MEK. The dose of MEK absorbed into the bloodstream of a pregnant woman is approximately the dose delivered through the placenta to her fetus. As a result, if a pregnant woman is routinely breathing air containing significantly more than .3 PPM of MEK, her fetus will be receiving a fetotoxic dose of MEK. Daily doses of MEK in common workplace settings, where MEK is used as a solvent without positive ventilation or protective equipment, result in air concentrations several hundred times greater than the so-called "safe harbor" reference dose.
Chlorinated Hydrocarbons: Dioxins and Furans
Dioxins and furans are found in chlorinated organic solvents, pesticides, weed killers, wood preservatives, such as pentachlorophenol, and charcoal starter. Although no longer manufactured in the U.S., they can still be found in the herbicide 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. EPA considers dioxin to be a "cancer promoter" and classifies it as a probable human carcinogen responsible for leukemia, lymphoma, Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and soft-tissue sarcoma's which have latency periods of 20+ years. Unfortunately today's treating physician rarely inquires concerning potential causation when the immediate need is to provide care, but all such cancers should be closely scrutinized to determine a toxic starting point.