According to World O Meter, every second, 310kg of toxic chemicals is released into the air, land, and water. That amounts to around 10 million tons of toxic chemicals released into the environment every year.
In the modern world, toxic substances are everywhere. They can be found in your home, workplace, and food. But what happens when you have been exposed to them?
Here are some of the most common harmful toxins that we come across and what you should do if you have been exposed to them:
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), arsenic is a naturally occurring element that can be found in high levels in the groundwater of many countries. It is estimated that around 140 million people in 70 countries have been drinking water contaminated with high levels of arsenic.
It is also an ingredient found in many pesticides. Arsenic is a metalloid. This means it has properties of both metals and nonmetals, making it chemically similar to both but more toxic than either one.
Arsenic poisoning can cause cancer or other health problems. It can also cause miscarriages and birth defects if you are exposed during pregnancy or breastfeeding. If you think you may have been exposed to arsenic, see your doctor immediately for treatment advice.
Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a chemical solvent found in many common household products, such as paints and cleaning supplies. It can also be found in water systems, dry cleaning fluids, and automotive parts.
Studies have shown that TCE can cause cancer, liver damage, and kidney damage when inhaled or ingested. TCE was detected in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune, a Marine base on the North Carolina coast.
TCE contaminated the drinking supply at Camp Lejeune for decades before reports of illness began to surface among those who lived or served there. Since then, many veterans have filed a class action Camp Lejeune lawsuit against the federal government seeking compensation for their injuries caused by exposure to toxic chemicals while serving their country at Camp Lejeune.
Perchloroethylene (PCE) is a solvent that can be found in computer monitors, printers, and copiers. It is harmful if inhaled and can cause liver damage and cancer. PCE was also the other toxin found in Camp Lejeune water.
If you work with PCE or have been exposed to it but don’t know what to do next, here are some tips:
- Inform your doctor about any health problems you experience after being exposed to PCE
- Keep track of your symptoms so you can share them with your doctor for a proper diagnosis
- Inform anyone who may help treat these symptoms about the possible causes of those symptoms
One of the most common hazardous toxins that you may come into contact with is chlorine. According to the Department of Climate Change, energy, the Environment, and Water (Australian Government), chlorine makes up almost 0.03% of the upper earth’s crust.
Chlorine is a chemical that can be found in many places, including swimming pools and water treatment plants. When inhaled, chlorine can cause health problems such as shortness of breath and coughing.
If you have been exposed to chlorine gas or liquid (liquid forms are called hydrochloric acid), call 911 immediately. If there are no symptoms present, but you think that you have been exposed to chlorine, call your doctor for advice about what type of treatment would be best for your situation.
You may think lead is just a name for the metal used in pencils and plumbing, but it’s a heavy metal that has detrimental effects on humans, animals, and the environment.
Lead can be found in paint, pipes, old batteries, and even faucets. It can also be absorbed through skin contact with contaminated soil or dust. Even if you don’t have direct contact with lead-contaminated dust, your hands will pick up enough dust to contaminate the food and drink items you handle.
Lead poisoning causes brain damage and other health problems such as anemia (low red blood cell count), kidney disease, or seizures due to increased calcium levels in the blood. Children are especially vulnerable as they tend to develop more severe acute lead poisoning symptoms than adults.
Mercury is a heavy, silvery-white metal that can be found in some paints and pesticides. It’s also used in thermometers, barometers, thermostats, and switches. Mercury can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin by coming into contact with mercury-containing products or materials containing mercury.
Health issues associated with mercury exposure include:
- Kidney damage
- Nervous system damage (neurological)
- Skin rashes
Pesticides are very common toxins. They are used in agriculture, homes, and gardens to kill pests like insects and weeds. Pesticide exposure can be hazardous to humans and the environment.
Some pesticides can be absorbed through the skin, eyes, or lungs by direct contact with contaminated soil or water sources, which also means you should always wash your hands after handling any sort of gardening tool. Others may cause skin rashes if you have touched them without gloves on.
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a group of chemicals that can cause cancer in humans. They are released into the environment by burning coal, gasoline, and diesel fuel.
The highest levels of PAHs occur when organic material is burned under high temperatures and pressure, such as in forest fires, industrial processes like oil refining, or incineration of municipal solid waste.
They are found in tobacco smoke and charred foods.
You can’t always avoid exposure to toxins, but you can take steps to limit your exposure. If you are exposed to a toxin, here’s what you should do:
- Get medical attention right away. If someone is experiencing respiratory problems, vomiting, or diarrhea, or if they have been exposed to a large amount of the toxin, call 911 and get help right away.
- Don’t eat or drink anything until your stomach settles. When dealing with poison or toxic chemicals in food or water supplies, it’s important that the body not absorb any more toxins until it has time to recover from the effects of previous exposures.