We’ve all heard about the dangers of sniffing glue. What you may not realize, however, is that you might be getting a high exposure count to the very chemicals that kids are using to get high without even knowing it. And it can be doing you as much harm.
The problem resides in the fact that these harmful chemicals can get into your system in one or more of several manners:
Absorption – Are you cleaning your tools, paint brushes, bearings, etc… with solvents? Any contact with solvents where it comes into direct contact with the skin can result in absorption into the body.
Ingestion – Solvent particles become airborne and eventually alight on anything and everything around. Anything that you put into your mouth can contain these chemical particles. Do you nervously chew your nails? Do you eat your lunch in the same area as the solvents are used? You may be further introducing solvents into your system.
Inhalation – This is, of course, the most obvious one. Airborne particles gain access to your body through your lungs whenever a respirator is not used properly or not used at all. Just because you can’t smell it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Injection – Solvents can gain direct access to the blood stream whenever the skin is punctured. Cuts, scrapes or punctures in the skin can allow the solvents to get to vital organs much faster.
There are three major safety issues associated with solvents:
- Many solvents are flammable so make sure that any and all ignition sources are removed from the area(s) where solvents are being used.
- Solvents can have short-term harmful effects that include dizziness, nausea, eye irritation, skin irritation, lungs irritation, headaches and more. These effects can also impair judgment which might cause you to not realize that you need to remove yourself from the area.
- Solvents can have long-term harmful effects that are cumulative in nature. Over time, these solvents can cause damage to vital organs like the kidneys, the lungs or the liver.
Safety precautions to use when using solvents
- Keep ignition sources away from areas where solvents are being used
- Use adequate ventilation. Work outside if possible, use fume extractors or blowers when working indoors
- Wear the appropriate PPE (Gloves, respirators, safety glasses or goggles, coveralls, etc…).
- Don’t eat in the areas where solvents are used
- Wash up after working with solvents to reduce the risk of ingesting. Use non-solvent base cleaners to wash up with.
- Keep lids on all solvent containers to reduce vapors.
- Read the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for the solvents you are using. If a respirator is required if will probably be a Organic Vapor cartridge which will be color coded as pink.