Odorless Dangers: Chemical Hazards in Healthcare

The healthcare industry recently surpassed construction and manufacturing as one of the most dangerous fields to work. One danger most healthcare workers face on a daily basis is the exposure to hazardous chemicals. Exposure and inhalation of chemicals can lead to acute and chronic health problems. Protect your workers by knowing what chemicals can pose risks and how to interact with them safely.

What chemicals are dangerous?

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), you should handle the following chemicals with extreme care:

  • Ethylene oxide (EtO): EtO is a sterilizer. It may also irritate the eyes and nose upon contact. If ingested in liquid form, EtO can cause gastric infection, liver problems, lung irritation, headaches and vomiting. Exposure to EtO has been linked with cancer, reproductive problems and neurological problems.
  • Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde is a disinfectant and sterilizer. Exposure to this chemical in liquid or gas form can cause nose, eye and respiratory system irritation. Chronic exposure to formaldehyde can cause laryngitis, bronchitis or bronchial pneumonia.
  • Glutaraldehyde: Glutaraldehyde is a disinfectant and sterilizer and is also used for X-ray development. Contact with eyes, nose and throat can cause severe irritation and burns. Glutaraldehyde is a sensitizer, meaning those who have regular contact with it may become very sensitive to it, having severe reactions to even small amounts. Prolonged exposure may also lead to asthma attacks, skin allergies and chronic eczema.

If you or your workers are persistently showing any of the symptoms above, contact a doctor immediately.

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