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Am I at Risk for Injury by Toxic Fumes?

On Behalf of | Jul 8, 2022 | Workers' Compensation Posted On: July 8th, 2022

Chemicals and particles are in the air everywhere, from home garages and gardens to machine shops and construction sites. Workers in manufacturing, building, automotive, janitorial, and agriculture—even in food production—may be at risk for exposure to toxic chemicals. Sometimes, chemicals create toxic fumes. Toxic fumes can get in your lungs and eyes, causing irritation or damage to your lungs, skin, and eyes. Chemicals frequently affect the skin; latex allergies or contact reactions, such as blistering or chemical burns, can send you to the ER.

Other substances can cause exposure injuries, too, such as the mineral asbestos, dust, mold, and metal particles. Asbestos exposure is linked to asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma—another form of cancer.

Any kind of toxic fume or chemical exposure should be taken seriously. Seek medical attention and tell your employer if you are exposed to fumes or vapors on the job.

Sources of Toxic Fumes

The OSHA website contains more than two dozen pages dedicated to chemical hazards. This includes solvents, fibers, metals, fluids, minerals, and other hazardous materials. Be aware of the chemical hazards you can encounter at work.

A few common sources of toxic fumes and/or exposure risk include:

  • Adhesives
  • Ammonia
  • Asphalt
  • Bleach
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Chemical Additives
  • Cleaning Solutions
  • Mold
  • Paint
  • Paint Stripper
  • Pesticides
  • Pool Chemicals
  • Sewer Gas
  • Solvents
  • Engine Exhaust-Especially Diesel
  • Weed Killer


On the job or at home, certain substances should be handled with care. The side effects of inhalation of toxic fumes can include lung damage, headache, dizziness, nausea, and more. The effects can be acute, chronic, or both. If fumes or vapors make you cough, consider ways you can control exposure, and take measures to protect yourself.

Controlling Exposure to Toxic Fumes

Workers have a few options for controlling their exposure to toxic fumes. The main protection against toxic fumes is PPE, also known as Personal Protective Equipment. For toxic chemicals, that includes respirators, gloves, eye protection, and protective clothing. By law, employers are required to provide PPE to minimize exposure to chemicals, vapors, and fumes. They should also provide ventilation, proper handling and use training, and job rotation to limit workers’ exposure to chemicals. Learn more from OSHA.

When using chemicals at work or at home, always follow the directions. Read the labels carefully, and avoid using chemicals together, as many react when combined. For example, ammonia smells bad at its full concentration, but when combined with bleach, it releases toxic gas.

At work or at home, you may be at risk for exposure to toxic fumes or noxious vapors that can hurt you. Take steps to protect yourself whenever you are exposed to fumes, engine exhaust, cleaning solvents, and so on. If you do get exposed to chemicals, know your rights under Iowa law. Learn more from our team. Wertz Law Firm specializes in workers’ compensation claims and can help you prove your case involving toxic fume exposure.

Other resources:

OSHA: Understanding Chemical Hazards Factsheet

DHSS: Health Effects from Chemical Exposure