Concrete Health Effects

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Type:  Best Practice

Publisher:  Buildsafe South Africa, Dubai, UAE

Published As:  Public


Topics:  Respiratory Protection, Occupational Safety and Health, Wellness

Adverse health effects from concrete or cement are generally the result of exposure through skin contact, eye contact or inhalation.

Skin Contact
Getting cement dust or wet concrete on your skin can cause burns, rashes, and skin irritations. Sometimes workers become allergic if theyve had skin contact with cement over a long period of time. When wet concrete or mortar is trapped against the skin-for instance, by falling inside a workers boots or gloves or by soaking through protective clothing-the result may be first, second, or third degree burns or skin ulcers. These injuries can take several months to heal and may involve hospitalization and skin grafts. As a result of the chemical reaction that takes place, contact with concrete or formwork during curing, especially where large volumes are involved, can result can result in thermal burns due to the elevated temperatures that can develop.

Eye Contact
Getting concrete or cement dust in your eyes may cause immediate or delayed irritation of the eyes. Depending upon how much and for how long you get the dust in your eyes, effects to your eyes can range from redness to painful chemical burns.

Inhaling high levels of dust may occur when workers empty bags of cement. In the short term, such exposure irritates the nose and throat and causes choking and difficult breathing. Sanding, grinding, or cutting concrete can also release large amounts of dust containing high levels of crystalline silica. Prolonged or repeated exposure can lead to a disabling and often fatal lung disease called silicosis. Some studies also indicate a link between crystalline silica exposure and lung cancer.

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