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Toxic chemicals

TOXICITYis the ability of a substance to produce an unwanted effect when

the chemical has reached a sufficient concentration at a certain site in the
The more toxic a material is, the smaller the amount of it necessary to be
absorbed before harmful effects are caused. The lower the toxicity, the
greater the quantity of it necessary to be absorbed.
The toxicity of a chemical is generally measured by experiments on animals
(quite often rats). If it is measured in terms of the amounts of material
necessary to cause death in 50% of the test animals.
These values are called LD50 (lethal dose) or LC50 (lethal concentration), and
are usually given in weight of material per kg of body weight or airborne
concentration of material per set time period respectively.
HAZARDis the probability that this concentration in the body will occur.
Toxicity is an inherent property of the material. A material may be very toxic,
but not hazardous, if it is handled properly and is not absorbed into the body.
On the other hand, a material may have a very low toxicity, but be very

Routes of Entry
There are three primary routes of entry into the body: ingestion, skin or
eye absorption, and inhalation.
Ingestion:- This means taking a material into the body by mouth
(swallowing). Ingestion of toxic materials may occur as a result of eating in
a contaminated work area.
Absorption- Substances that contact the eye and the skin may be either
absorbed into the body or cause local effects. For the majority of organic
compounds, the contribution from skin absorption to the total exposure
shouldnotbe neglected.
Inhalation- This means taking a material into the body by breathing it in.
In the lungs, very tiny blood vessels are in constant contact with the air we
breath in. As a result, airborne contaminants can be easily absorbed
through this tissue. In the occupational environment, this is generally the
most important route of entry.

Health Effects - Chronic vs Acute

Once a toxic substance has contacted the body it may have either
acute (immediate) or chronic (long term) effects.
Example: Spilling acid on your hand will causeimmediate harm, i.e. a
burn to the skin.
Exposure to asbestos or tobacco smoke may result in lung cancer after
as much as twenty years (this is a long term effect).
Exposure - Chronic vs Acute
Exposure can be classified as chronic or acute. In chronic exposures, the
dose is delivered at some frequency (daily or weekly usually) over a
period of time.
In acute exposures, the dose is delivered in a single event and
absorption is rapid. Usually, a chronic exposure occurs at low
concentration and acute exposure at high concentration.
Some materials may only cause harm if given acutely, not having any
effect in the long term.
Other materials may not exhibit an effect in the short term, but may
cause problems after prolonged exposure.

Physiological Classification of Materials

This classification identifies toxic materials on the basis of biologic
Irritants- refers to some sort of aggravation of whatever tissue
the material comes in contact with.
e.g. ammonia, nitrogen dioxide.
Asphyxiants- exert their effects through a depletion of oxygen to
e.g. - simple asphyxiants - carbon dioxide, nitrogen, methane,
chemical asphyxiants - carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide,
hydrogen sulphide.
Narcotics or Anaesthetics- the main toxic action is the
depressant effect upon the Central Nervous System
e.g. - many organics, chloroform, xylene.
Systemic Poisons- the main toxic action includes the production
of internal damage
e.g. Hepatotoxic agents-toxic effects produce liver damage.
eg. carbon tetrachloride.
e.g. Nephrotoxic agents-toxic effects produce kidney damage

Mutagens- agents that affect the cells of the exposed people in such
a way that it may cause cancer in the exposed individiual or an
undesirable mutation to occur in some later generation.
e.g. radiation, variety of chemical agents that alter the genetic
Teratogens- Agents or compounds that a pregnant woman takes into
her body that generate defects in the fetus
e.g. Thalidomide, possibly steroids
Sensitizers-Agents that may cause allergic or allergic-like responses
to occur. After an initial exposure to a substance an individual may
become sensitized to that substance. Subsequent exposures to the
same substance, often at a much lower concentration than before,
produce an allergic response. This response may be a skin rash
(dermatitis) or an asthmatic-like attack, depending on the route of
e.g. cutting oils, isocyanates in polyurethane foam operations and
paint spraying operations, some laboratory solvents.

List of toxic chemicals

rugs, rug underpaddings, rubber tires, rubber consumer products, nylon, gasoline, auto exhaust,
leukemia, lymph cancer, blood cell cancer; tumors of breast, bronchial tubes, stomach, large
intestine, liver, heart, thyroid (in mice: testicular tumors, leukemia)
body metabolism of alcohol; woodstoves, incinerators, smog, diesel exhaust, byproduct of Candida
Albicans fungal infections
DNA and chromosome damage; binds to liver and other cells causing autoimmune responses;
respiratory irritation, metabolic disruption, lung damage
neurologic damage, lung damage; enhances carbon tetrachloride liver damage
Alkylphenol resin
carbonless copy paper (NCR forms)
immune responses including itching/burning skin, rash, flushing, wheezing, cough; nausea;
hormone (prostaglandin) irregularities

Benzenes (benzene, benzo(a)pyrene, naphthalene, others)

gasoline (auto exhaust & interiors, gas stations) diesel exhaust, building materials, plastics,
polypropylene food containers,
cooked foods, printers, printed & copied paper, copy machines, incinerators, tobacco smoke,
woodsmoke, marihuana smoke
bronchial, colon, and liver damage; leukemia; DNA damage; tumors including brain, liver,
lung; cardiac abnormalities, eye irritation, drowsiness, unconsciousness, un coordination, heart
attack (in mice: birth defects, tumors)
BHT (butylated hydroxy-toluene)
migration from polyethylene food packaging, additive in foods (cereals, fats, meats, potatoes,
allergic reactions, possible cancer possible kidney damage (animals: behavioural changes in
Carbon disulfide
solvents, dry-cleaning, painting, spray painting, glue work, varnishes
peripheral nerve damage, emotional instability, insomnia, lessening of libido
Carbon monoxide
woodsmoke, tobacco smoke, auto and diesel exhaust
lung damage & irritation; carboxy-hemoglobin neutralizes blood oxygen transport

Chlorinated water
drinking water, shower vapour
immune depression (anti- tumor macrophages)
Chlorobenzene pesticides ( DDT, lindane, heptachlor, aldrin,
dieldrin,endrin, chlordane, mirex; others)
food chain: fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, human fat, mothers
milk; body fat, contaminated soils, groundwater brain
transmitter changes including
neurological kindling; breast cancer (in test bacteria: genetic
mutations; in mice:
developmental learning deficits). Many are partially or completely
Chloroform, carbon tetrachloride
solvents, incinerators, groundwater
liver- lung- & enzyme damage, cancers, kidney damage, cardiac
abnormalities, heart attack

DEHP (diethylhexyl phthalate)

plasticizer, food wraps, vinyl blood bags: leaches into blood during
likely toxicity to lungs, liver, reproductive organs; possibly
(in animals: fetaltoxicity, lung abnormalities
contaminant in pesticides, herbicides,technical products; now
worldwide in air, water, meat, fish, humanbody (especially fat, liver);
formed in incineration, electrical fires,woodsmoke, chemical reactions
(possibly sewage sludge)
genetic damage, vitamin A dysregulation, liver toxicity, altered fat
metabolism, chlorachne (skin cysts,scarring) thymus atrophy,
impaired resistance to infection, breast cancer, nerve transmission
damage (in animals: fetal damage, immune damage, enzyme
glue, alcoholic beverages
fetal damage, developmental delay, neurologic damage, cirrhosis of
liver, zinc and selenium deficiencies;accelerates liver damage of
chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, and nitrosamines; interferes with

solvents, printing, fabrics, mattresses, tobacco smoke, woodsmoke, foam insulation,
particle board, carand diesel exhaust,smog, groundwater
lung damage, impaired memory & dexterity, immediate and delayed hypersensitivity
reactions; asthma, rhinitis; irritation of eyes and respiration
Glycol ethers
antifreeze, paint, glue, adhesives,sealants, caulking compounds, printed circuit
boards, dyeing, inks
reproductive poisons, red blood cell damage, liver damage (in animals: fetal growth
retardation, skeletaldefects, testicular lesions) (49)

recently the most common general anesthetic; still in use as pediatric anesthetic
neurologic damage, liver damage (in rodents: developmental brain damage,
reducedlearning andexploration in offspring, neurotransmitter changes)
cleaners, fungicide
immune suppression, reduced T&B cell responses (in mice: impaired resistance to

disinfectant, cleaning agent, soaps; used to wash hospital newborns from 1950s to
nausea, vomiting, convulsions, central and peripheral nerve damage, kidney
damage; caused brain lesions and death when used to wash newborn premature

food additives, photographic supplies, herbicides, pesticides, textiles,
autoimmune disease (lupus) (58)

MBT ( 2 -mercaptobenzothiazole)
blood vial stoppers, syringes; rubber nipples & pacifiers and other
rubber products
damage to cell walls (cell death), allergy, rubber allergy (in animals:
cancer) (59, 60)

glue, antifreeze, paint, cement, ink, windshield-wiper solvent; industrial
neurologic damage, blindness, lung and gastro-intestinal problems;
dizziness, headache (61, 62)

Methyl ethyl ketone

solvents, photochemical smog
lung irritation and damage (9)

Methyl n butyl ketone

solvents, glue, varnish

Methylene chloride
pesticide sprays, gaseous lubricants,aerosols, degreasers, waxes,
paints,paint-removers, varnishes
heart muscle damage, heartbeat changes; creates carbon monoxide (in
animals: cancers) (61, 66)

building materials, vegetable oil extraction, gasoline, solvents, glue,
roofing glue, varnish, vinyl production,printing inks,
paints, dry-cleaning, spray painting
nerve cell damage, peripheral limb nerve damage; headache, cramps
Nitrogen dioxide
incinerators, woodsmoke, smog, auto and diesel emissions; coal, oil &
gas stoves
lung & respiratory damage, pulmonary fluid, fatty acid oxidation,
bronchitis, childhood bronchitis; formsmethemoglobin in blood (in
mice: reduced resistance to infection, lung cell damage)
consumer rubbers (tires, baby nipples and pacifiers), soaps, cosmetics,
tobacco smoke, food & foodcontainers and
packaging, marihuana smoke, pesticides, herbicides, industrial uses
DNA damage, cancers, cell death (in 30 animal species tested:

incinerators, photochemical smog, diesel and auto exhaust, laser printers
lung immune system damag (B-cells), bronchial constriction, fatty acid
oxidation, enzyme de-activation
(in mice and rabbits: lung lesions; in rats: fat metabolism damage,
increased deaths) (9, 68, 69, 75-78)

PBBs (polybrominated biphenyls)

flame retardants (rugs, plastics, clothing, furnishings)
immune depression (T&B cells)
PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)
leakage from transformers; disposal of copy papers,
paints/plasticizerspesticide extenders, flame retardants, adhesives,
coolants, inks, hydraulicfluids; human, fish, and animal fat; groundwater
genetic damage causing developmental & cognitive retardation, vitamin
A dysregulation, chlorachne,immune depression, peripheral nerve
damage, liver damage, respiratory problems, thyroid
hormonedysregulation, decreases in reaction time, spatial learning,
short-term memory; excess pigmentation
(inanimals: tumors, growth retardation,behavioural changes, fetal
death, increaseinfection)

wood preservative, packagingpreservative, insecticide, metabolite
oflindane & hexachlorobenzene; found in urine of75% of U.S.
possible genetic damage, suspected cancers; commonly contaminated
with dioxins
(in animals: fetal death and mutations) (37, 61)

disinfectants, insecticides, fungicides (especially citrus fruit), food
additives,tobacco, marihuana, natural
foodoccurrences, incinerators
nausea, vomiting, paralysis, coma (in cats, dogs: immune depression;
in mice: trace amounts causeimmune dysfunction of yeast-killing
macrophages) (61, 91, 92)

Solvents (mixed) (usually some combination of: benzene,

toluene, xylene, styrene, acetone, methanol,
phenol, alkylphenol, dichloromethane)
paints, glues, degreasers, thinners,extractors, dyes,
industrialmanufacturing, laboratories
brain, skeletal, and other birth defects; brain cell degeneration; panic
attacks, impaired memory,depression; visuospatial and perceptual

rubber, carpet backing, rugunderpaddings, photocopiers, copypaper,
laser printers, polystyrene foodcontainers(yogurt, others)
genetic mutations, chromosome aberrations; interference with liver
enzymes, dermatitis; skin, nasal &respiratory irritations, fatigue,
irritability; decreases in manual dexterity,concentration, and
(in mice: tumors and increased death rate)
Sulphur dioxide
car and diesel exhaust, incinerators, woodsmoke, smog
lung & respiratory damage, bronchiospasm, airway irritation(in mice:
increased infection)

fetal malformations; chelates bone calcium

Toluene (methyl benzene)

paint, solvents, carpets, plastic & rubber cements, white-out fluid,
glue,roofing glue, photocopiers, print shops, dry-cleaning,
spray paintingvarnishes, building materials, incinerators, smog,
gasoline, groundwater (drinking, skin absorption), printedpaper
damages: menstruation, respiratory system, brain, reproductive
system, verbal memory, short-termmemory, reaction speed; increases
emotional reactivity and awake periods; induces asthma, blood
vesseldilation, hearing loss (9, 23, 24, 100, 101)

typing correction fluid, polyurethane foams and elastomers (insulation,
cushions), industrial uses
immediate (type 1) immune reactions, other immune-system changes;
damage to mucous membranes;cough, wheeze; irritation of eyes, lungs
(9, 47, 102, 103)

dry-cleaning, painting, spray painting, glue work, dewaxing and
degreasing agents, insecticides, draincleaners, printinginks, solvents,
varnishes; incinerators
damage to cranial and trigeminal (nasal) nerves, liver; brain fatty acid
changes; narcotic symptoms:dizziness, nausea, numbness, alcohol

Vinyl chloride
plastic wraps (Saran Wrap), PVCplastics, pipes and
connectors;packing materials, wire and cable coatings, footwear,
spray-propellant gas, hard flooring, vinyl records,groundwater
liver, brain & lung cancers; trigeminal nerve damage, vinyl chloride
disease (loss of bone calcium,auto-immune complexes, peripheral
nerve damage, Raynauds symptoms, immune complex
disorder);skin damage, T-cell depression, kidney damage; sexual and
sleep disorders (9, 11, 104-106)

paints, thinners, solvents, gasoline, polystyrene cups, adhesives,
roofing glue, building materials, varnish, cleaners,
paper,photochemical smog, groundwater
lung enzyme damage, upper respiratory irritation, fatigue, headache,
nausea; impaired balance andreaction times