• Mon. Jan 18th, 2021

The sweet smelling poison.

ByChristine Gacheri

Oct 15, 2020

Most artisans slowly poison themselves through exposure to benzene and toluene, the sweet-smelling highly volatile hydrocarbons and thinners added to paints.

 Over-exposure to those chemicals can progressively lead to aplastic anaemia, leukaemia and multiple myeloma.

Motor vehicle garage spray painters routinely complain of sore throat, headache and dizziness.This is often attributed to their hectic work environment.

Apart from the adverse respiratory health problems, over-exposure to the two chemicals can progressively lead to aplastic anaemia (the body stops producing enough new blood cells), leukaemia and multiple myeloma.Exposure to toluene can be life-threatening or lead to chronic occupational asthma.

“These symptoms were also observed in the current study among the spray painters who spend many hours doing spray painting without personal protective equipment,” the study says.Toluene has a sweet, distinct smell and is also present in many household cleansers, nail polish, petrol and glue in which it is abused through sniffing.

This makes it more important to evaluate the levels of toluene released during spray painting to protect the workers in small-scale industries, where toluene is involved. Exposure was measured by collecting benzene and toluene compounds through a passive colour dosimeter tubes placed near the breathing zone of spray painters.

The average amounts of benzene and toluene were 73.46 ppm (parts per million) and 61.22 ppm respectively, against WHO’s recommended maximum of 0.5ppm for benzene and 50ppm for toluene.

In these small-scale industries, workers are exposed to a myriad of other chemicals with little or no proper protection which make them vulnerable to illnesses associated with the exposures.

They recommended that the study guide the policy on benzene and toluene exposure control and awareness creation among the auto spray painters.Occupational exposure to benzene and toluene in spray painting occurs specifically in operations that involve manual handling.

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