Hazardous Materials and Chemical Exposures

HAZWOPER chemical exposures

Working at a Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) site carries the risk of exposure to hazardous materials and chemicals. One of the primary functions of HAZWOPER training is to educate and prepare workers and their employers for the dangers of these exposures.


Types of Exposures

There are two main types of chemical exposures: acute and chronic.

Acute exposures involve a single or limited number of exposures to large quantities of chemicals or hazardous materials. Symptoms from acute exposures are generally seen immediately following the exposure.

Chronic exposures involve exposure to small amounts of chemicals or hazardous materials over a long period of time. The symptoms associated with chronic exposures are typically not evident right away but build up gradually over time and depend on the substance you’re being exposed to as well as the number and duration of those exposures.


Symptoms of Exposure

The symptoms of acute chemical or hazardous material exposure may include:

  •      Burning or rashing of the skin
  •      Coughing or sneezing
  •      Tearing eyes

 Chronic exposure can lead to symptoms such as:

  •      Cancer
  •      Respiratory disease
  •      Loss of taste or smell

Symptoms can depend on the type of material and the amount of exposure. Symptoms may also depend on the person’s lifestyle habits such as alcohol and tobacco use, diet, medication use as well as age and gender.

 Symptoms may appear at the site of exposure or appear in other parts of the body.


Exposure Routes

Chemicals and hazardous materials can come in solid, liquid, or gaseous forms and there are multiple ways you may become exposed.

  1. Inhalation. Gaseous substances can be breathed into the lungs and are a common culprit of respiratory disease and asthma.
  2. Skin absorption. Physical contact with chemicals may directly affect the surface of the skin or be absorbed through the skin and cause internal symptoms. Open wounds can accelerate the risk of skin absorption. 
  3. Ingestion. Exposure through ingestion can happen by handling a hazardous material and then touching your mouth, nose, eyes, or ears.
  4. Injection. Chemicals can be injected into the skin when a contaminated object like a needle penetrates the skin.


Learn More

Learn more about hazardous material and chemical exposure by enrolling in one of our HAZWOPER training courses as an individual or an entire group. Not sure which course to take? Use our course guide for help.

 Expose yourself and your employees to the proper training and knowledge and you can limit the risk of exposure to hazardous materials and chemicals. See a free demonstration of our courses today.