There are health hazards associated with the use of various cleaning materials and disinfectants. They may seriously damage mucous membranes, the skin, eyes, and internal organs of all types if inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through direct contact. The potential for health risk depends on the type of chemical being used, the concentration of the chemical, the time of exposure, the route of entry into the body and whether the individual is working with the material on a routine basis, periodically, cleaning up a spill of the chemical, or has limited exposure. The individual involved may have a specific sensitivity to the chemical. The individual’s past medical history, previous exposures to a variety of different chemicals, state of health, age, types of pharmaceuticals taken, etc., contribute to the potential effects of the various chemicals being used. Acute toxicity may result from an accidental spill, whereas chronic toxicity may occur from repeated exposure to low levels of the chemical over a period of time.

Best Practices for Avoiding Health Problems Related to Cleaning Materials and Disinfectants

  • • All employees should be given a physical examination including an extensive history, before working with any types of chemical substances.
  • • All employees should be taught about the potential hazards of the chemicals that they are using for cleaning and decontamination and should be under close supervision to make sure that they follow appropriate instructions not only for proper cleaning purposes, but also for self-protection.
  • • All employees should wear the necessary personal protective equipment based on the types of chemicals being used.
  • • All employees should thoroughly wash their hands frequently during the course of the work shift and then wash their hands thoroughly and change their clothing before leaving work.
  • • Employers must be constantly aware of the hazards from cleaning materials and are responsible for informing the workers about these hazards and how to protect themselves.
  • • Employers must follow the necessary rules and regulations published by OSHA and use the information on the material safety data sheets for each chemical or mixture of chemicals and must observe the exposure limits which have been established for a normal 8-hour workday for 40-hour work weeks to protect the employees utilizing cleaning materials and disinfectants. Particular attention must be given to the use and disposal of glutaraldehyde, formaldehyde, and some of the phenols.
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