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Toxic Substances and Disease

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In the contemporary society, many workplaces involve the use of toxic substances to accomplish various tasks, such as tanning of skin, cleaning of metal, among others. Toxic substances refer to the chemicals that can harm human beings at home or in the workplace (Graham & Green, 1991). The chemicals can include dusts, solvents, fuels, paints, benzene, hydrogen sulfide, or lead. These chemicals may poison employees or cause diseases, such as asthma, brain damage, blood cancer, and skin irritation, which can lead to reduced job performance among employees as a result of weakness, absenteeism, and psychological problems. This paper will consider the health effects related to workplace exposure to benzene, the safe levels of exposure, and potential controls.

Benzene refers to an organic compound that is useful in the manufacture of rubber plastics, nylon, resins, synthetic fibers, pesticides, detergents, dyes, lubricants, among other chemicals (Graham & Green, 1991). Gasoline, oil, vehicle emissions, and cigarette smoke can also contain benzene. Industries that make use of benzene include shoe manufacturers, oil refineries, rubber and plastic manufacturing industries, and industries manufacturing nylon, resins, synthetic fibers, pesticides, detergents, dyes, and lubricants (Graham & Green, 1991). In the workplace, employees who might come into contact with benzene include rubber workers, steel workers, laboratory technicians, shoe makers, plastic industry employees, and station employees at gasoline filling station. The potential workplace exposure to benzene includes evaporation of benzene from gasoline, emissions from the reaction chambers, as well as direct skin contact when processing pesticides and dyes (Graham & Green, 1991). Therefore, workers get into contact with benzene through inhalation. The potential health effects that occur because of exposure to benzene include anemia, dermatitis, eye problems, and poisoning.

Chronic inhalation of benzene causes blood cancer and aplastic anemia because benzene injures the organs that form blood (Graham & Green, 1991). Workers have a likelihood of developing blood cancer or aplastic anemia after many years of workplace exposure to benzene. For instance, an employee, who has worked for many years in a gasoline filling station, is likely to develop anemia. Dermatitis is another likely health problem that workers contract because of workplace exposure to benzene (Graham & Green, 1991). This happens due to the repeated skin contact with the chemicals in the shoe making plants, as well as repeated skin contact with pesticides when packing chemicals in the pesticide manufacturing industries. Employees may also experience benzene poisoning when they fail to wash their hands thoroughly upon packing pesticides at the factory. Ingestion of benzene can lead to gastrointestinal irritation and cause death due to high concentration (Graham & Green, 1991).

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Occupational Health Guidelines to Chemical Substances, the safe level of exposure to benzene should be one part of benzene for a million parts of air in eight hours every day (Graham & Green, 1991). In most organizations, work shifts are eight hours long unless an organization allows for overtime. The NIOSH advocates controlling of benzene and handling it as a human carcinogen when in the workplace. Industries must reduce the workplace exposure to benzene to the minimum feasible limit. The NIOSH advocates that the feasible exposure limit to benzene in the workplace should be 0.32 mg / m3 (Graham & Green, 1991). In the workplace, workers should use protect equipment, such as chemical protective clothing and gloves to avoid skin contact with chemicals containing benzene. Practice of hygiene is another preventive measure against the negative impacts of benzene on the health of workers. This involves washing of hands thoroughly to avoid ingestion of benzene, which can cause gastrointestinal irritation or death. Workers should use approved respirators under the supervision employers to avoid ingestion of benzene through inhalation (Plog & Quinlan, 2012).

In conclusion, exposure to benzene is a common phenomenon in shoe manufacturers, oil refineries, rubber and plastic manufacturing industries, and industries manufacturing pesticides, lubricants, among others. Benzene can lead to various health problems, such as anemia, dermatitis, eye problems, and poisoning. Control of exposure to benzene may include wearing of protective clothing, use of approved respirators, and practicing sanitation and hygiene (Plog & Quinlan, 2012). 

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