Chris Keen, Health & Safety Laboratory, UK
The article provides a general overview of occupational exposure to dangerous substances. It provides definitions, an introduction to the relevant EU legislation and basic information on how to identify and manage the health risks associated with dangerous substances in the workplace. The article provides an overview for beginners, and signposts the way to additional information.
Many occupations involve the use, or generation, of substances which can be harmful to humans (see the following articles; Irritants, Occupational allergens, Carcinogenic, mutagenic, reprotoxic (CMR) substances, Reproductive effects caused by chemical and biological agents, Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals). Health effects can range from relatively mild, such as eye irritation, to serious diseases such as cancer. Adverse effects can occur as a result of a single episode of high exposure, e.g. high exposure to an irritant substance such as chlorine or nitrogen dioxide may cause an asthma-like condition known as reactive airway dysfunction syndrome (RADS). However, many health effects can arise from lower exposures occurring on a repeated or sustained basis. In considering exposure therefore, it is often necessary to take the exposure level