The specific hazardous chemicals, materials, and substances that people are likely to be exposed to in the workplace will vary depending on the industry and type of workplace. Here are seven examples of hazardous substances commonly encountered by many different types of workers.
7 Most Common Environmental Hazards You Might Find At Work
- Heavy Metals
- Crystalline Silica
- Carbon Monoxide
1 – Asbestos
Used in building materials for decades, asbestos can cause mesothelioma—a difficult-to-detect form of lung cancer that is nearly always fatal. Modern building codes forbid using asbestos in the walls and pipes of residential and commercial lots.
However, construction workers can still be exposed to asbestos if asked to work on older structures. Moreover, it is sometimes still used in factories that manufacture car brakes, clutches, and gaskets.
2 – Heavy Metals
Exposure to heavy metals like lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, and arsenic can lead to irreversible neurological damage, acute metal poisoning, and other serious health issues. Depending on the industry or job, workers may be exposed to heavy metals via water runoff from industrial sites or through contact with metal alloys, lead paint, and contaminated soil.
3 – Benzene
Found in crude oil and gasoline, prolonged exposure to benzene is hazardous not only to the mental health of organic chemistry students everywhere, but to the human body as a whole. If inhaled or ingested, it can cause acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a type of blood cancer often fatal. If you work with rubber, printers, printing ink, steel, gasoline, or smoke, you may be at a heightened risk of exposure.
4 – Crystalline Silica
Crystalline silica is another hazardous substance that workers can be exposed to in various industries, including construction, mining, and manufacturing. It is a mineral found in materials such as sand, dirt, rocks, and concrete, and it can cause lung cancer, silicosis, and other respiratory diseases.
Workers can be exposed to crystalline silica dust when cutting, drilling, or grinding materials that contain silica. To prevent health problems, employers need to implement safety measures such as proper ventilation and respirators to limit workers’ exposure to this toxic dust.
5 – Pesticides
Exposure to pesticides can cause various health problems, including neurological damage, cancer, and reproductive problems. Landscapers and people in the agriculture industry most commonly encounter these substances.
6 – Formaldehyde
A foul-smelling chemical used in building materials, organic preserving agents, and other products, formaldehyde can cause respiratory problems and is a known carcinogen. It is commonly found in the furniture and carpet production industry and in research labs that work with biological specimens.
7 – Carbon Monoxide
Known as the “silent killer,” this colorless, odorless gas can cause headaches, dizziness, fainting, and death in high enough concentrations. According to OSHA, carbon monoxide is produced by burning fuel such as gasoline or diesel, so those who work with engines and machinery are at a higher risk.
It’s particularly hazardous in enclosed spaces, such as car repair garages and industrial warehouses, because the room can inadvertently fill with this poisonous gas instead of air.
Industrial Hygiene Professionals In Southern California
If you are the manager or owner of a business related to any of the industries listed above, don’t risk a workers’ comp lawsuit or personal health issues by waiting until you and your employees have experienced toxic chemical exposure. Contact Benchmark Environmental Engineering today for a comprehensive inspection in the San Jose area.