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Introduction to chemical and biological factors and health at work

Introduction to chemical and biological factors and health at work
This second week we will focus on health risks from chemicals such as pesticides and metal fumes. We will also deal with biological factors at work. - Exposure to chemical factors at work may lead to serious diseases, like cancer or effects on the brain. This is less known, but we will teach you about it. This week we will tell you about different chemical and biological factors that may have negative effects on workers health. We will give you some examples of different chemical factors in industries, that often cause health problems, and explain more - how this could happen.
Welding is an example of a work process that involves exposure to a wide range of chemical hazards resulting from heating metals and filling materials. Over time, serious chronic lung diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema may result from this type of work. Depending on the kind of welding method used and the type of metal involved, the fumes may also contain carcinogenic agents such as hexavalent chromium and nickel.
When workers are given inadequate protection, acute health effects such as metal fume fever may be seen at sites where welding is occurring. Thus, it is important to be able to recognize the hazards related to work processes, such as welding and cutting , and to understand how chemical substances can enter the body as well as harmful effects that may result. By understanding the mechanism of what happens, it will be easier for you to understand how and why this can be prevented. In general, there are different strategies for preventive measures that should be considered to reduce or remove chemical hazard risks.
Examples of such measures are substitution of a toxic agent with a non-toxic agent, ventilation, and use of proper personal protective equipment.
We will give you some extra details relating to pesticide exposure. Pesticides play an important role in controlling the damage caused by pests on plants. Pesticides are therefore very important for farmers. Pesticides are also important in the development of new agricultural industries, such as flower farms where flowers are cultivated in green houses. The negative side of the pesticides is that they can be very toxic and dangerous to the health of other organisms, including the workers. It is a complicated situation as there are very many compounds involved within this group of chemicals. In addition, they are often used in large quantities. We will give you a few examples of how some of them work and what kind of symptoms they can give.
One of the examples is a group of pesticides called acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. These pesticides interfere directly with the activity in the nervous system, and can cause both acute intoxications as well as chronic health effects. Workers need to know what they are doing when handling such chemicals. When used with knowledge and proper protection many potential problems can be prevented. We will also introduce to you the topic of health problems related to organic solvent intoxications. Organic solvents are used in many industrial processes, both during their production - as, for example, in paint factories - and during their use - for example, during the actual painting process. What is not well known is that organic solvents can cause serious diseases affecting the nervous system.
Substances such as organic solvents influence the brain and the peripheral nerves of the body and exposure can result in the development of a dementia-like syndrome as well as reducing the strength and sensitivity in the hands and feet. We will describe how such conditions develop over years of exposure. With use of less hazardous paint products, proper ventilation and protective equipment, these problems can be totally avoided. Biological factors at work comprise different types of bioaerosols which consist of particles from plants and animals, as well as microorganisms and their derivatives like endotoxins and antigens. Typical examples of work environments with exposure to bioaerosols are waste handling, husbandry, bakeries and sawmills.
Workers experience a range of biological factors in agricultural work, where health risks also can involve animals, such as, for example, snakes and snails during work on rice fields. One important example of harmful biological factors at work is infectious agents. Infections may also develop among health personnel who are in close contact with workers. The health personnel may develop the same kinds of infections as the patients. The good news is that this type of problems can be avoided at work places, if correct preventive measures are used. Knowledge about the possibility of contamination is very important and health personnel need to be educated about such issues. With proper knowledge, they can more easily protect themselves and others.
It is important to build a culture of implementing and following good routines at work places to minimize and avoid the exposure and spread of infectious agents. It is also important that the correct protective equipment is available. - We find it important to teach you that factors at work may cause serious chronic diseases. - Our important message this week is that these diseases can all be prevented. This knowledge can improve and even save lives.

This week consists of four topics, each followed by discussion and a quiz.

Biological factors

These days, biological factors in our environment are of interest for almost everyone – exemplified by the novel coronavirus (nCoV). Different types of biological factors are encountered in a wide range of work places, and the virus is one of them. We will tell you about different kinds of biological factors, different health effects and describe occupations where exposures to biological exposures are abundant. We will also tell you how to avoid adverse health effects from these factors, including vaccination.

Chemical intoxications

In this session we will give some examples of occupational chemical intoxications. We will discuss different chemical exposures and health effects related to welding which is a process that is carried out in thousands of workplaces worldwide. We will also present occupational exposure and intoxications caused by lead and mercury. In addition this session will also discuss Occupational Exposure Limits (OEL) and biomonitoring, and how these methods could be used in surveillance of the work environment and in assessing workers exposure to chemicals.

Pesticide intoxications

After this session, you will know what pesticides are, what pesticides are used for, know how workers become exposed to pesticides, know that pesticides may cause serious health problems, and be able to discuss examples of how to prevent these problems. You will also know some details on the pesticides called acetylcholinesterase inhibitors.

Intoxications from organic solvents

After this session, you will know what an organic solvent is and how these solvents may cause adverse health effects, especially in the brain and nervous system. You will be able to understand the mechanism for these health effects in the body, what types of work that causes a risk of organic solvent exposure, how we can evaluate the risk factors and how the workers can be protected to avoid adverse health effects from these substances.

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Occupational Health in Developing Countries

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