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These 3 toxic chemicals are harming construction workers

On Behalf of | Jun 14, 2019 | Workers' Compensation |

Construction sites pose serious injuries. When working on a construction site, safety is a huge concern. There are many different safety issues to consider, including following safety rules and using equipment properly. Another safety issue not commonly thought of is environmental factors.

Environmental components, especially toxic chemicals, can cause serious internal and external damage to one’s body. This gradually decreases a person’s ability to perform daily functions. The three most common toxins on construction sites which have devastating health effects are lead, PVC and mercury.

What are the dangers of lead?

Lead is known to be extremely hazardous, even at minimal exposure. But many construction sites still use it to perform tasks such as: welding, flame cutting, soldering, painting, varnishing (oil-based), spray painting, sandblasting and surface preparation of sand alloying.

Severe health effects due to prolonged exposure of lead may include cancer, reduced fertility, increased hypertension and reproductive toxicity.

What are the dangers of PVC?

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a synthetic plastic used extensively in construction work. This includes flooring, duct work, roofing and coating and insulating pipes and wires. PVC is made from vinyl chloride, a carcinogen, which by itself is toxic and can cause cancer.

Prolonged exposure to PVC can contribute to many health effects, some of which include neurological damage, reproductive damage, cancer and decreased respiratory functioning.

What are the dangers of mercury?

Mercury can absorb through the skin, eyes and nose. While mercury exposure is more commonly tied to fish consumption, it can also be found in some areas relating to construction. Mercury poisoning can occur during exposure to broken fluorescent light bulbs and pipeline construction. Its effects include impaired vision, increased risk of kidney disease and damage to nervous and immune systems. More common symptoms include tremors, depression and problems with memory and coordination.

How can you reduce your risk of exposure?

Since it is nearly impossible to avoid toxic substances on construction sites, there are a few things workers and employers can do to reduce the risk of exposure. According to the U.S Department of Labor, suggestions to reduce the risks of exposure include: rotating job assignments, substituting hazardous chemicals with safe alternatives, using fume hoods, isolating and enclosing processes, using chemical protective clothing, as well as wearing respiratory masks, gloves and eye protection. Taking these safety precautions can play a big role in keeping construction workers safe and free from toxic exposure.