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            There are many dangers when dealing with hazardous materials. Hazardous materials released in the water, land and air can pollute the environment and become even greater threats to people’s life. For instance, when rain falls at a waste site it may carry the hazardous materials deep into the ground and groundwater. Hazardous materials can cause death or injury to people, plants or animals when a huge amount of the materials is released at once and when small amounts of waste materials are released severally at the same location.

                There are many risks involved on how to contain hazardous materials. Some technologically advanced landfills also leak from time to time. The tanks used to store petroleum or chemicals can easily leak and catch fire. Tanks in the underground can weaken and leak their hazardous materials. There are many risks when transporting hazardous materials, for instance, when trucks overturn or trains crash. People can also dump hazardous materials in sewer systems, warehouses that are abandoned or remote areas ditches to escape the costs of safe dumping. There are three routes of entry that hazardous materials enter into the body: ingestion, absorption, and inhalation (SYKLI, 2012).

  1. Ingestion: Refers to taking materials into the body through the mouth. Ingestion of materials can occur because of eating in a place that is contaminated.
  2. Absorption- Substances that come into contact with the skin and eye can be absorbed into the body.
  3. Inhalation- It involves taking substances into the body by breathing them.

            Health risks commonly linked with hazardous materials are grouped as acute and chronic.  It is critical to seek medical attention when one is exposed to harmful materials. Most of these exposures have treatment if one takes immediate action.

  • Acute/ immediate effects result from a short-time exposure to hazardous substances. Some of the immediate warning signs include headaches, nausea, dizziness, skin, eye or respiratory damage or irritation, unconsciousness and even death. The most noticeable and common warning signs are skin, eye, and respiratory irritation. Occurrences of deaths are very rare, and the majority of these exposures can be treated if immediate attention is taken. 
  • Chronic/delayed effects occur after a long time exposure to hazardous materials. The exposure can also be very small over a lengthen period of time. The effects mainly target the liver and kidneys as all chemicals that get into the body pass through these organs.  A perfect example of an unending health effect is called lung cancer from radon inhalation or cigarette smoke. 

            There are some products that can cause large health risks though used as directed. For instance, there are products taken off the market or banned due to their health or environmental risks for example, those containing PCTs, PCBs, asbestos fibres, mercury, lead and arsenic compounds. Some of products banned because these reasons include some of children's toys, after thorough testing, they have been discovered to contain lead. The brominated flame retardants that are used in plastics can leach out and found in house dust, bisphenol-A which can interfere with the endocrine system, is found in the plastic that makes food-can liners and baby bottles (Järup, 2003).

            There are many risks caused by hazardous materials. Many researches indicate that unfavorable reproductive effects are linked to landfill sites. They include low birth weight, which is less than 2.5 kg, fetal and infant mortality, abortions and birth defects occurrences. Some toxic substances have long-term impacts by changing the genetic code (DNA) which informs the body's cells to do certain roles. There are three groups of effects which can come out of such substances: (University of Toronto, 2013).

  1. Mutagenic effect: It refers to a permanent change in DNA that may be passed on to future generations
  2. Carcinogenic effect: It refers to an increase in a person's risk of getting cancer
  3. Teratogenic effect: It refers to the risk that an embryo will get physical defects.

             Based on animal and people studies where there they were exposed to high levels of substances, cadmium, nickel, arsenic, chromium, PAHs and dioxins and PAHs are considered to be carcinogenic. As well as carcinogenicity, some of these substances produce toxic negative effects on the CNS (central nervous system, liver), kidneys, lungs, heart, reproduction, skin, and other organs. Organochlorides and dioxins can be lipophilic, and build up in fatty tissues, where they are associated with endocrinal and productive disruption (Andelman & Underhill, 1987).

            Other groups of pollutants are aerosols and acidic gases, which include organic compounds and metals. Studies have indicated that this group has consequences that include increased mortality and hospital admissions, mainly for respiratory and cardiovascular respiratory events (DeLisi, 2006). Negative effects of these substances appear mostly in vulnerable groups such as the elderly, children or persons with chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease or asthma. Metals such as cadmium, lead, mercury, arsenic, chromium, and beryllium all cause a number of carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic health effects. Organic compounds such as PCBs and dioxins can accumulate in a person’s body. Dioxin’s high levels exposure have led to chlorine-related diseases and a swell in cardiovascular disease. Studies have found increased risks of some cancers, but the outcomes vary depending on the substance.      

References

Andelman, J. & Underhill, D. (1987). Health effects from hazardous waste sites. Chelsea, Mich:    Lewis Publishers.

DeLisi, S. (2006). Hazardous materials incidents surviving the initial response. Tulsa, OK:             PennWell.

Järup, L. (2003). Hazards of heavy metal contamination. British medical bulletin, 68(1), 167-        182.

SYKLI. (2012). What is hazardous waste. Retrieved on April 17, 2014 from http://www.sykli.fi/en/hazardous-waste/what-is-hazardous-waste/risks-of-hazarodus-waste.

University of Toronto. (2013). Health Effects of Toxic Chemicals. Retrieved on April 17, 2014                  from http://www.ehs.utoronto.ca/resources/whmis/whmis6.htm

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