How often do you see someone wearing a pair of gloves to protect their hands or steel toe boots to protect their feet but when it comes to working in dusty or toxic conditions they seem to think its ok to not wear lung protection.
As someone that use to paint Cars and Airplanes for a living I can’t tell you how many shops I have worked in or visited where employees think its not manly to protect themselves from poisons and particulates.
After the first few months of coming home and spending 10 minutes spitting out Auto body Primer and blowing my nose to get the auto body filler out of my sinuses I decided that any garbage I would take from my fellow workers was not as harsh as ending up in a hospital bed with lung cancer or some other disease.
The fact is one of the worst problems for all trades people is dust and toxic fumes used in their workplace.
For plumbers there is the problem of fumes from lead solder and PVC cements and particulate in the form of Asbestos insulation.
For Carpenters there is the constant dust from sawing wood. Until a few years ago Pressure Treated Woods had highly toxic chemicals and still today there is a problem with inhaling both wood particles and the adhesives used in Plywood and Glue Laminated products.
Insulation contractors have had Asbestos removed from their workplace unless they are working on old projects but there is a now little talked about problem with Fiberglass Insulation that has been recognized by both manufactures and the government to be a cause for lung damage. Additionally sprayed foam based insulation either iso or urethane have been known to damage lungs both at the time of inhalation and long term effects due to out gassing.
Painters have to deal with Volatile Organic Chemicals and recently most manufacturers are moving to a Low VOC mix where water based stains and polyurethanes are starting to replace oil and petroleum paints.
The fact is that anything that enters your lungs even if it is inert (not toxic) can end up causing severe health problems.
So, what can we do to protect ourselves on the job?
Well the very least we can do is follow Manufacturer recommendations when working with products that could enter our systems.
You should always read the warning labels on products that you use and if you have any concerns that there could be additional problems because you work with the product on a day in day out basis then you can visit manufacturer’s and government websites to get some more basic information.
For people that think dust masks and respirators are a joke I hope they have a good health care plan and a manager that will visit them in the hospital and take care of their kids.
Lets go over the basic differences between Particulate / Dust and Chemical / Toxin protection available to us.
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