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Solvents & Exposure Concerns

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Published on Feb 22, 2017

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) describes solvents as substances that are capable of dissolving or dispersing one or more other substances. Most solvents are liquids, but they can also be a solid or a gas.

Tox Town, hosted by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, states that the term solvent usually refers to organic solvents, which contain carbon. Organic solvents can be classified into three main types:
• Oxygenated solvents
• Hydrocarbon solvents
• Halogenated solvents

Oxygenated solvents contain oxygen and are synthesized from other chemicals. Hydrocarbon solvents contain hydrogen and are derived mainly from petroleum. Halogenated solvents contain one or more of the halogen elements: chlorine, bromine, fluorine or iodine. Most halogenated solvents contain chlorine and are then called chlorinated solvents.

People can be exposed to solvents by breathing them, absorbing them through the skin or by swallowing them. In the home, people can be exposed to solvents by using cleaning products, personal care products, nail polish remover, paints, glues, adhesives and other household products containing solvents. Children exposed to high levels of solvents at home may suffer from asthma.

In the work environment, people can be exposed to solvents if their work involves dip cleaning, vapor degreasing, manufacturing that uses glues and adhesives, paint stripping, fueling, transferring flammable solvents, painting, offset printing, dry cleaning, installing carpets, and cleaning electronics, automotive parts, engines and circuit boards. Workers may also be exposed if they are involved with manufacturing soap, printed circuit boards, semiconductors, personal care products, pharmaceuticals or textiles among other occupations.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that millions of workers are exposed to solvents on a daily basis. The agency also states that health hazards associated with solvent exposure include toxicity to the nervous system, reproductive damage, liver and kidney damage, respiratory impairment, cancer and dermatitis.

Tox Town states that exposure to a massive amount of solvents can cause sudden death and that prolonged exposure can cause blindness, irregular heartbeat, and damage to the kidneys, liver, lungs and central nervous system.


These are just a few things to know about potential solvent exposure concerns. To learn more about this or other occupational, environmental, air quality, health or safety issues, please visit the websites shown below.

Clark Seif Clark http://www.csceng.com
EMSL Analytical, Inc. http://www.emsl.com
LA Testing http://www.latesting.com
Zimmetry Environmental http://www.zimmetry.com
Healthy Indoors Magazine http://www.iaq.net
VOETS - Verification, Operations and Environmental Testing Services http://www.voets.nyc

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