Workers in many industries may experience toluene exposure without awareness of the harm it can cause. Because toluene exposure may cause birth defects, pregnant women should never work around the chemical.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends substituting a safer chemical for toluene, but that is not possible in every industry. While toluene is primarily used for industrial purposes, it is found in a variety of workplaces, ranging from auto repair shops to nail salons.
Clear and colorless, toluene is found in many products, including:
- Shellacs and varnishes
- Metal cleaners
- Printer’s ink
- Nail polishes
While a liquid, toluene quickly vaporizes when exposed to air.
Toluene exposure may cause immediate effects, or the effects may appear over time. The chemical has a sweet odor, so if a worker smells it, he or she has likely been exposed.
If you have ever used a paint thinner, you should recognize the smell of toluene. Such exposure may come from breathing fumes or getting it on the skin. In some cases, a worker may accidentally ingest a small amount of it or have it splashed on them.
Symptoms of toluene exposure include:
- Eye and nose irritation
- Skin tingling
Long-term exposure may result in liver or kidney disease or harmful effects on the nervous system. The latter may result in permanent incoordination, hearing and vision loss, and cognitive issues. High-level exposure may cause cardiac arrhythmia and the person may lose consciousness. In a worst-case scenario, toluene exposure may prove fatal.
Toluene Safety Tips
Since toluene is highly flammable, it should never be used around open flames, or anywhere there is a chance of a spark igniting the chemical; and no one should ever smoke in its vicinity.
Toluene use should only occur in well-ventilated areas. Always wear protective equipment, especially gloves and safety googles, when handling toluene. Workers should never eat or drink in an area containing toluene.
Use as little toluene as possible, and apply it via a roller or brush, rather than a spray.
What to Do If Exposed to Toluene
If you are exposed to toluene, prompt action is necessary. If the chemical gets on your skin and/or clothing, remove contaminated garments and wash skin thoroughly with soap and water. If toluene is inhaled, get outdoors for fresh air immediately. If toluene gets in the eyes, rinse the eyes with water for several minutes.
If you happen to ingest toluene, rinse out your mouth, but do not try to induce vomiting. No matter what the form of exposure, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
If you have been harmed by occupational exposure to toluene, you may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits, which include compensation for medical expenses and a portion of your lost wages. Dependents of workers who have been fatally injured on the job may be entitled to certain death benefits.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Pursue Maximum Compensation for Workers Exposed to Toluene
If you or a loved one have been injured on the job, you need the services of the experienced Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Call us today for a free case evaluation at 888-999-1962 or contact us online. We serve clients in Pennsylvania from our offices in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Pinehurst, North Carolina.