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What Factors Influence Toxic Exposure Levels?

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One of the first things to consider when thinking about chemical compliance is controlling exposure levels. Compliance standards are created, in part, to prevent or mitigate toxic chemical effects on employees. While there are no invariable principles that can help a person determine what level a substance becomes poisonous, there are various factors that influence the level at which a specific substance becomes dangerous. Understanding these factors is the first step toward creating a plan to stay within chemical compliance standards.

1. Point Of Entry

A substance can only affect a person or animal by coming into physical contact with the body. The most common two methods are via the subject breathing in contaminated air and ingestion via contaminated food or cigarettes. The eyes and skin are also possible contact points. Any point of entry can be hazardous depending on the type of substance.

2. Dosage and Toxicity

These are perhaps the two most important factors determining the hazard presented by any given substance. Determining a chemical's toxicity is a matter of knowing precisely what amount or dosage causes adverse reactions in a subject. The most common measure for this is called the LD50, short for "Lethal Dose 50." Broadly, this is the dosage at which 50 percent of animals tested in a lab die from exposure. Chemical compliance standards are largely formulated based upon the LD50 of the substance in question. However, it is important to note that any substance can become toxic through exposure, including such necessities as water.

3. Rate Of Removal

Everything that is ingested is gradually processed and eventually excreted by the body. When any foreign substance is ingested, some of it is broken down by the body, while some of it is expelled whole via feces, urine, sweat, or exhaled breath. As a general rule, there's less risk of disease the quicker the body can break down or remove the chemical.

4. Biological Variation

The final influential factor governing toxicity is any given subject's individual biological makeup. It could be said that a compound's LD50 is largely governed by the exposed person's age, gender, physical condition and health, and various genetic factors.

All of these factors are considered when creating chemical compliance standards critical to keeping employees safe and healthy. Thanks to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard, employers are required to make hazard information available to employees by supplying a SDS for each chemical on-site. Section 11 of the SDS clearly identifies toxicological and health effects information including: information on the likely routes of exposure, description of delayed, immediate or chronic effects from short- and long-term exposure, numerical measures of toxicity, description of the symptoms ranging from the lowest to most severe exposure, and indication of whether the chemical is listed in the national Toxicology Program (NTP) Report on Carcinogens or has been found to be a potential carcinogen in the International Agency for Research on Cancer (AIRC) Monographs or found to be a potential carcinogen by OSHA.

The SafeTec System not only keeps SDS information readily available, but also provides tools to keep close tabs on chemicals that pose potential risks to employees. Using the Regulatory Engine combined with our Chemical Inventory module, teams can cross reference their chemical data with over 400 regulatory lists. This includes the capability to create custom lists based on regulations, such as banned substances or substances of concern and generate reports including facility-based occupational exposure limit analysis reports.

Find out more about how SafeTec can help your employees avoid toxic exposure levels.

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