Newsletter of the Canadian Association of Recycling Industries
Volume 9, No. 1, January 2017
LIMITING CHEMICAL EXPOSURE
Processing scrap requires separating materials into their component parts, which often includes separating heavy metals and radioactive materials, and removing hazards such as lead paint. Contaminants such as mercury, lead, chromium, and many others, can be found in scrap materials and they may pose a significant health hazard to exposed employees.
Recycling facilities can house chemicals in various forms – gaseous, liquid, or solid and processing materials can release chemicals in dust particles or fluids. There are a number of ways in which these substances can enter the body. If the body is not properly protected, contaminants can be unintentionally inhaled, absorbed through the skin, ingested, or introduced to the body through puncture wounds.
Two general categories for classifying chemical exposure include: acute and chronic. Acute exposure results in symptoms that appear during or quickly after exposure, whereas chronic chemical exposure generally describes a long period of exposure to a lower concentration of a contaminant. Effects of chemical exposure range widely but obvious symptoms include rashes, respiratory irritation and coughing, burns, eye irritation, and nausea.
Protecting employees from chemical exposure is extremely important, as many substances are odourless and colourless. Chronic chemical exposure usually results from persistent exposure to a contaminant that cannot be detected by smell or sight.
Proper ventilation, dust collection systems, and protective equipment and outerwear can help limit exposure. Routine air sampling, appropriate screening for radioactive materials, and maintaining a tidy work environment are crucial to protecting employees. Chemical exposure through puncture wounds can be greatly reduced with the use of protective footwear and clear pathways.
76th Annual Convention
New Orleans, LA
September 6 – 8
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Canadian Association of Recycling Industries
130 Albert Street Suite 1906
Ottawa, On K1P 5G4