Chlorinated Solvents

Chlorinated solvents are a large family of chemical compounds that contain chlorine, for example, carbon tetrachloride (carbon tet), trichloroethylene (TCE), or methylene chloride. They are used for a wide variety of commercial and industrial purposes, including degreasers, cleaning solutions, paint thinners, pesticides, resins, glues, and a host of other mixing and thinning solutions. Their chlorine-containing chemical structure helps them: to efficiently dissolve organic materials like fats and greases and to serve as raw materials or intermediates in the production of other chemicals. Workers can be exposed to chlorinated solvents through the absorption of solvents, through inhalation and skin contact. Inhalation is the most common form of workplace exposure, because the solvents can readily evaporate. Skin contact is another important route of exposure in the workplace.

Chlorinated solvents can leave the body through exhalation and/or urination. Exposures can lead to short-term or long-term health effects, depending on the manner by which they entered your body and the amount of exposure. Short-term side effects may include dizziness, fatigue, headaches, and/or skin rashes. Long-term side effects may include chronic skin problems, and/or damage to the nervous system, kidneys, or liver. Some chlorinated solvents are also known to cause cancer, in both humans and animals.

Urine and blood tests can help determine if you have been exposed to chlorinated solvents. Factors that determine whether you have been harmed by your exposure include how much chlorinated solvents you came into contact with, and the duration of the contact. An examination by a physician trained to recognize signs of exposure to chlorinated solvents, can help identify some of the health effects of such an exposure. The physician can then advise you on how to reduce your health risks and refer you for additional testing if necessary.
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