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How Do I Find Out If I Am Exposed to Toxic Materials?

The most accurate method to determine whether you have been exposed to chemicals is environmental monitoring, which is done by measuring the concentration of a chemical in the air and duration of exposure to it.

answered by Gregory A. Cade

Industrial hygienists perform the sampling for environmental monitoring using various instruments

In the case of toxic substances that are ingested or are absorbed through the skin, environmental monitoring will underestimate the quantity of chemical you may have absorbed. Therefore, the levels of such chemicals or its breakdown products in the body can be measured by testing the blood, urine, and exhaled air. This type of testing is called biological monitoring and the results of these tests provide an estimation of the dose of the toxin absorbed by your body. Apart from this, there are some practical clues to check your exposure:

  • Immediate symptoms: These symptoms include tears in the eyes, a burning sensation on the skin, nose, or throat, dizziness or a headache, and cough. If you develop symptoms known to be caused by a chemical following its use, you might have been overexposed.
  • Taste: Ingestion or inhalation of toxic substances may leave a peculiar taste in your mouth.
  • Particles in throat or nose: The mucus you coughed up or blew out from your nose may contain particles if you have inhaled toxic substances in particle form. But, most particles inhaled into the lungs are microscopic and cannot be seen by the naked eye.
  • Settling of dust: Chemical dust will settle on your skin, hair, or work attire, and on work surfaces. If you find some dust or mist, it is likely you may have inhaled some when it was airborne.

*The information presented should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.

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