Whenever anyone handles industrial organic solvents or organic solvents, they ought to be incredibly careful. Preferably companies should switch to using more environmentally friendly solutions which are also less dangerous, but this isn’t a possibility in every job.
Nowadays, when you hear the word “organic” you probably think of its positive side – it brings to mind healthy food, environmentally friendly clothes, and other kinds of natural sources without chemicals. Unfortunately, this isn’t true at all – in fact organic and industrial organic solvents are considered carcinogenic by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Alongside risks of developing cancer, these organic solvents may present other health hazards such as damage to reproduction, to the nervous system, respiratory illnesses, dermatitis and organ damage.
But what is even more shocking than the terrible effects they can have on you are the sheer amount of them we face on a day to day basis, whether at work or at home. Solvents like benzene, acetone and ethanol are often found in seemingly harmless products such as glues, nail varnish removers, coolants and paint strippers. It would be incredibly difficult to remove all such solvents from your home, so instead it is best to take other measures to protect your health.
The most likely hazards coming from organic solvents are in their toxic fumes, and their flammable nature. Whenever you have organic solvents in the house you ought to keep them safely far away from any sources of ignition, and keep ventilation at a maximum by using windows and fans. The fans in your bathroom and stove hood are very useful in this situation, and physical barriers like gloves and masks will help your skin from becoming irritated.
When large quantities of industrial organic solvents need to be used, the same rough precautions apply although the safety risk is much greater. As an example, industrial solvents need to be grounded safely in order to prevent any errant sparks from setting the solvent alight. If there is a lot of electrical use in the area where the solvent needs to be used, they should be well-secured. Often, welding or cutting (jobs which create heat or sparks) take place in areas of high solvent use, but in order to make the position safe for employees the owner must have the proper permits and remove all the solvents before properly ventilating the area.
Ventilation is one of the key steps for working safely with industrial organic fumes, as the fumes tend to be very toxic even if they are odourless. Industrial fans and extractor fans are often used to pull air away from the work space, removing fumes as they do so. In the case that employees need to handle industrial organic solvents regularly, fume extractors or hoods should be used, and all employees ought to be equipped with gear to protect their clothes and skin from the solvents.
Because of these great risks, a lot of companies have moved away from industrial solvents where another solution is available. Some providers offer different types of volatile organic compound products – things like hand-wiped, non-flammable aerosol cleaners, biodegradable products and environmentally friendly solvents – which don’t only protect employees but also the environment in the long run.