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What Does Toxicology Mean?

Toxicology is the study of the harmful effects chemical, biological, and physical agents have on living things and the natural environment. This includes the effective treatment of humans and animals who have been affected by toxic substances.

Findings from the field of toxicology are helpful for understanding the effects of hazardous materials in the workplace and how to minimize exposure to them.

Safeopedia Explains Toxicology

Long-term (or chronic) exposure or short-term (or acute) exposure to harmful chemicals, biological hazards, and harmful physical agents can result in mild to serious health complications in workers.

Workplace safety programs must take toxological hazards into account and ensure there are adequate control measures in place to keep workers safe from them.

Some adverse toxicological effects can take years to manifest. In some cases, only after the worker is no longer on the job. Employers can nevertheless be held responsible and liable for them if they can be traced back to exposure on the job.

Toxicology and Occupational Diseases

Work-related use and handling of toxic substances can result in a variety of occupational illnesses, including:

  • Respiratory diseases
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Cognitive disorders
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Occupational cancers

Individual reactions to toxic exposure is variable. The quality and severity of the effect can be influenced by age, genetics, gender, and pre-existing medical conditions. Toxicologists need to take these factors into account when compiling data on occupational exposure.

When conducting a workplace risk assessment to identify toxic contamination, exposure to workers, and methodology, the following must be considered:

  • Duration of exposure
  • Concentration of the substance
  • Mode of exposure (inhalation, ingestion, absorption, injection)
  • Whether the exposure was direct, indirect, accidental, acute, or chronic
  • Allergies or use of medication
  • Personal habits (drug use, smoking, alcohol consumption)

OSHA Safety Standards for Toxic Chemicals

Employers are required by OSHA to enforce safety standards when dealing with toxic chemicals at the workplace. These requirements include:

  • Safe limits for toxic substances at a worksite
  • The number of hazardous substances workers can be exposed to
  • Processes and practices to keep workers safe from exposure
  • Use of personal protective equipment, including appropriate respirators
  • Periodic toxicological testing and medical surveillance
  • Recording workplace incidents, including toxic exposure and the development of work-related health conditions
In 1910.1200 – Hazard Communication, OSHA provides guidance about information that must be shared with employees who are at risk for exposure to toxic substances.

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