Protecting Workers and Residents of New York from Exposure Hazards to Solvents

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that millions of workers in the United States are exposed to solvents on a daily basis. The agency goes on to state that solvents share many chemical, physical, and biological properties that warrant national attention be directed to them as a group.

Solvents, as described by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), are substances that are capable of dissolving or dispersing one or more other substances. Most solvents are liquids, but they can also be a gas. The term solvent usually refers to organic solvents, meaning it contains carbon. Organic solvents can be classified into three main types; these include oxygenated solvents, hydrocarbon solvents, and halogenated solvents.

In the home environment, people can be exposed to solvents when using cleaning products, personal care products, nail polish remover, paints, glues, adhesives, and various other household products. Children exposed to high levels of solvents may suffer from asthma.

There a numerous occupations where workers can be exposed to solvents if their job involves dip cleaning, vapor degreasing, manufacturing that uses glues and adhesives, paint stripping, fueling, transferring flammable solvents, painting, offset printing, dry cleaning, installing carpets, and cleaning electronics, automotive parts, engines, and circuit boards. Workers may also be exposed if they are involved with manufacturing soap, printed circuit boards, semiconductors, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, or textiles among other industries.

“Whether at work or in a residential setting, solvent exposure can occur by breathing contaminated air,” said Michael Berrevoets, President, VOETS, LLC. “According to OSHA, health hazards associated with solvent exposures include toxicity to the nervous system, reproductive damage, liver and kidney damage, respiratory impairment, and cancer. At VOETS, our indoor air quality and industrial hygiene professionals test for solvents and other airborne hazards. If an issue is identified, we offer our expertise to develop solutions that eliminate or mitigate solvent exposure hazards. These services may include ventilation audits, respiratory protection programs, work process evaluations, and other actions.”

VOETS also recently sponsored an educational video about solvent exposure risks that can be seen at:

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