Exposure To Hazardous Metals

Overexposure to toxic metals, often referred to as “heavy metals” can be extremely hazardous in certain industries. Exposure to these metals can lead to long-term health issues and in some cases, even fatalities. Here is a partial list of some of the most prevalent toxic metals involved in occupational exposure.

Lead is one of the most common substances linked to occupational overexposure. Working in industries such as construction work, radiator repair, firing ranges and smelter operations can increase potential risk to hazardous lead exposure.

Overexposure to mercury can result in kidney damage and damage to the nervous system. Industries connected with high levels of potential mercury exposure include mining (as well as the mining of gold and silver ores) and the production and transportation of mercury.

Inhaling or contacting beryllium can cause an immune response that makes an individual sensitized to the substance, creating an increased risk for lung cancer and other lung diseases. Exposure occurs in fields involving the mining, extraction and processing of alloy metals containing beryllium.

Industrial workplaces involving the processing or smelting of ore are common places where cadmium exposure is a risk. Cadmium is an extremely toxic metal where acute exposure can be fatal - so welders in these fields need to exercise caution.

Exposure to high levels of arsenic can also be fatal. Overexposure to arsenic can be common in or around hazardous waste sites. Arsenic can also be naturally occurring in water, soil and rocks.

Being aware of potential hazards from toxic metals is critical if you work in industries wehre exposure may be common. Be sure to raise any concerns involving hazardous metals to your employer or OSHA at www.osha.gov or call OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), TTY 1-877-889-5627.