Ototoxicity: March 2022 Safety & Hygiene Corner

Q: What is chemical ototoxicity, and should I be worried?

A: Ototoxic chemicals may cause hearing loss or balance problems to employees who are exposed. Ototoxic chemicals can be found in certain pesticides, solvents, and pharmaceuticals. The chemicals can negatively affect how the ear functions, causing hearing loss, and/or affect balance. The risk of hearing loss is increased when workers are exposed to these chemicals while working around elevated noise levels. What are some common ototoxic chemicals? Toluene, n-hexane, p-xylene, ethylbenzene, trichloroethylene, carbon monoxide, tobacco smoke, and lead. How do I know if these chemicals are present in my workplace? Review the Safety data sheets for solvents and degreasers. Pay attention to Section 3 that lists the product’s components. What should you do if you use a product containing an ototoxic chemical? Contact a BWC Industrial Hygienist. The Industrial Hygienist can assist you in determining the noise levels at your facility, help you review Safety Data Sheets for ototoxic chemicals and ensure your employees are using proper personal protective equipment.

For more information, see Preventing Hearing Loss Caused by Chemical (Ototoxicity) and Noise Exposure | Occupational Safety and Health Administration (osha.gov)

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