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OSHA's Hearing-Loss Bulletin Targets Painters

Thursday, March 22, 2018

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently released a new bulletin related to hearing loss, with special attention paid to ototoxicity, hearing loss brought on by chemical exposure.

© iStock.com / AndreyPopov

Certain chemicals known as ototoxicants can cause hearing damage and balance problems upon exposure, even in the absence of noise.

The new safety and health information bulletin, Preventing Hearing Loss Caused by Chemical (Ototoxicity) and Noise Exposure, explains that certain chemicals known as ototoxicants can cause hearing damage and balance problems upon exposure. Noise at the time of exposure can exacerbate the problem in some cases, but ototoxicants can affect hearing even in environments without noise.

Paint and Thinner Chemicals

Ototoxicants occur in substances including some solvents used in paints and in chemical stripping and cleanup. Ototoxic solvents include: toluene, used as a paint thinner; ethylbenzene, used as a solvent in paints; p-xylene, used in the polymerization of some polyesters; and methylstyrene, used in making plasticizers, resins and polymers.

Other substances, including lead and organic tin compounds, can also act as ototoxicants.

Painting is included on OSHA’s list of common occupations that expose workers to ototoxic materials, along with construction, printing, fueling vehicles and aircraft, and the manufacture of products like transportation equipment and chemical products.

The new bulletin notes that employers can work to limit workers’ exposure to ototoxicants by knowing what substances have potential ototoxic effects and by employing the appropriate personal protective equipment.

The new bulletin is available here.


Tagged categories: Chemical stripping; Health and safety; Hearing protection; OSHA; Personal protective equipment; Solvents

Comment from Zenith Czora, (6/27/2018, 9:46 PM)

Now it worries me. i did not realize exposure to certain solvents can affect your hearing. This is worth sharing for every chemist that has constant exposure to solvents.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (7/10/2018, 8:01 AM)

Chemists, painters, lab techs - they all can have significant exposure unless proper measures are taken to minimize it.

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