While many jobs in Iowa have inherent risks, there are some positions that place the worker in more danger than others. One of the most hazardous types of occupational injuries occur to those working with toxic chemicals. While some positions may have a small exposure to these substances, other industries place employees in close contact with dangerous materials every day.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on the top five industries for toxic injuries which, combined, produce 36 percent of all hazardous substance incidents. In order from most injuries to least, these include chemical manufacturing, educational services, truck transportation, food manufacturing and utilities. During the research period of nine years, there were 57,975 incidents. Chemical manufacturing, which claims the top spot for hazardous material injuries, reported 1,753 during that period. In the educational sector, students were more commonly hurt than any other group, while employees made up over half of the total number of injured persons.
Eastern Kentucky University reports that, while physical contact with most substances is generally prevented, toxic materials can take many forms. These include dusts, liquids, solids, vapors or gases, some of which may be more difficult to avoid than others. Spills and leaks can lead to accidental contact but residual materials can cause prolonged exposure. Certain birth defects, allergies, cancers, infections and reproductive problems have developed as a result of contact with hazardous materials.
In addition to effects experienced over long-term exposure, there can also be significant consequences to short-term contact with some types of chemicals. Formaldehyde can be fatal at moderate levels and can cause respiratory problems in low amounts. Ethylene oxide can cause lung injuries, cancer, neurotoxicity and mutagenic physical changes.