You may work with or handle a lot of chemicals as part of your job – and you know that you need to take precautions. But, accidents can and will happen all the time. It’s not uncommon for a drop or two of chemicals to spill out of their container, even when you’re being careful.
Is there really a lot of cause for concern? There may be. Chemical exposure in the workplace can be incredibly common, and people often don’t really understand the risks.
Take, for example, the case of chemist Karen Wetterhahn, who accidentally spilled a couple of drops of a chemical called dimethylmercury on her latex gloves back in 1996. Even though she followed the safety protocols of the time to the letter, she died of chemical poisoning less than a year later.
In short: You need to be on alert for any sign of damage to your body from the chemicals you work with. Even limited exposure to the wrong thing can prove toxic.
What are the signs of chemical damage to your body?
Chemical exposure can cause a host of different symptoms. Some appear more-or-less immediately, while others may cause delayed reactions. You need to be on the lookout for things like:
- Contact dermatitis: This is a broad term for numerous skin conditions. You could have discolored patches on your skin that are white, gray, red or black. You could develop a rash wherever the chemical touched. You may also experience itching, blisters or swelling.
- Headaches and dizziness: If you feel disoriented and have a headache that won’t quit, you may be wise to suspect some known or unknown chemical exposure. In some cases, you may be able to smell (or even taste) the residual chemicals in the air. For example, the smell of formaldehyde in glue can linger in the air for a very long time.
- System toxicity: This happens when your body starts to negatively react to a chemical in a diffuse way. You may develop respiratory issues, digestive issues and problems with your other organs.
It’s important to keep in mind that there are at least 82,000 different industrial chemicals in use, and about 700 new chemicals are introduced every year. That’s a lot of potential “unknowns” that can lead to trouble for you.
If you suspect you’ve been sickened by industrial chemicals, don’t try to handle the situation on your own. Experienced legal guidance is wise.