written by Nancy Hepp, MS
Research and Communications Specialist
Beginning with this post, these columns will be focused on one issue and will be posted as topics emerge rather than on a strict weekly schedule.
Exposure to chemicals, radiation, dust, heat and other stressors at work are a perennial concern. Recent items highlight some of the dangers in nail salons, e-waste recycling facilities and asbestos-related industries.
The IAQ Video Network and Cochrane & Associates produced a brief video, Nail Salons & Chemical Exposure Concerns. The video describes how brief exposures to the chemicals found in nail and beauty products from occasional visits to a salon may not be of concern, but for hundreds of thousands of salon workers who are exposed for several hours and many days each week, attention needs to be directed toward reducing exposures. Identifying which chemicals are in products, using less hazardous products, improving ventilation and reducing chemical contact with skin can all reduce risks for workers.
A serious hazard from electronics recycling facilities is described in an article from Medical Xpress: “The disposal and recycling of electronic devices has increased exposure to lead and other toxicants and created ‘an emerging health concern,’ according to a pediatrician who directs the Environmental Health and Lead Clinic at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.” Lead, often found in electronic devices, is extremely toxic to fetuses and children, with even miniscule exposures able to cause permanent damage to the brain and nervous system. Residues that remain on workers’ skin, clothing, shoes, and other personal items can be brought to their cars and homes, exposing their families to these contaminants. The news article references a case study of two young children whose blood lead levels were critically high from their father’s take-home contamination from his job at an e-scrap recycling facility.
An April article from The Seattle Times describes the verdict in a case of take-home exposures resulting in a woman’s death from mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer usually associated with exposure to asbestos. Although the woman had never worked with asbestos, she had handled and washed her husband’s work clothes—contaminated with asbestos fibers—decades earlier. This is just one recent example of illness from take-home asbestos exposures, which have been known to be hazardous for decades.
In 1995, the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health published a report finding “that take-home exposure is a widespread problem.” Workplace measures found to be effective in preventing take-home exposures included these:
- reducing exposure in the workplace
- changing clothes and shoes before going home and leaving soiled clothing at work for laundering
- storing street clothes in separate areas of the workplace to prevent contamination
- showering before leaving work
- prohibiting removal of toxic substances or contaminated items from the workplace
- preventing family members from visiting the workplace
This post is part of a regular series that summarizes and highlights recent Your Health items and trends. Readers can follow CHE’s Your Health news feed or subscribe via RSS. See all Your Health columns.
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Bringing attention to specific resources and findings does not mean CHE endorses or validates them. We highlight the emerging science and its implications for Your Health, knowing that thinking will continue to evolve as new studies are published.