Pollution for Kids


People can carry hazardous substances home from work especially if they are an industrial worker, or anyone who works for a company where toxic products are produced. They bring home the contamination on their clothes, bodies, tools, and other items.

Manufacturer workers and people who work in buildings where a manmade product is produced can unknowingly expose their families to substances that can cause various health effects.

This can also occur when the home and workplace are not separated, such as on a farm.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted a study of contamination of workers’ homes by hazardous substances transported from the workplace on clothing, hands, briefcases and other  items brought home from the workplace.

The study documented cases of home contamination from 28 countries and 36 states in the United States. Reported cases cover a wide variety of materials, industries, and occupations.

Such incidents have resulted in a wide range of health effects among workers’ families, including respiratory problems, neurologic disorders, and fatal poisonings. About half of the reports have appeared in the last 10 years.

Contaminants that caused health effects among workers’ families include:

• Beryllium

Nearly 40 reported cases of chronic beryllium disease were identified among workers’ families.

Beryllium is a very lightweight, strong, hard metal that is easy to shape. The Department of Energy has used beryllium for a long time because of its many uses in nuclear weapons and reactors.

Chronic Beryllium Disease 

Breathing beryllium particles can lead to scarring of the lungs. This is known as chronic beryllium disease—CBD for short. It can be treated, but it cannot be cured. It is sometimes fatal.

• Asbestos

Asbestos reaching workers’ homes has occurred worldwide, resulting in all forms of asbestos disease among workers’ family members, including over 100 identified deaths from mesothelioma in the United States. Although asbestos is now used less and regulated more, there is still the chance for exposure among workers’ families, especially among construction workers.

Workplace exposure to people that work in industries that mine, make or use asbestos products and those living near these industries, including:

  • The construction industry (particularly building demolition and renovation activities),
  • The manufacture of asbestos products (such as textiles, friction products, insulation, and other building materials), and
  • During automotive brake and clutch repair work

Deteriorating, damaged, or disturbed asbestos-containing products such as insulation, fireproofing, acoustical materials, and floor tiles.

• Lead

Nearly 80 reported cases of workers’ family exposure to lead contamination were identified. More than half of the reports on workers’ children have occurred since 1990.

Lead is a toxic metal that was used for many years in paint and other products found in and around our homes. Lead also can be emitted into the air from industrial sources and leaded aviation gasoline, and lead can enter drinking water from plumbing materials

• Mercury

In six reported cases, workers’ homes were contaminated with mercury. Mercury in the air eventually settles into water or onto land where it can be washed into water. Once deposited, certain microorganisms can change it into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish, shellfish and animals that eat fish. Fish and shellfish are the main sources of methylmercury exposure to humans. Methylmercury builds up more in some types of fish and shellfish than others. The levels of methylmercury in fish and shellfish depend on what they eat, how long they live and how high they are in the food chain.

Mercury is an element in the earth’s crust. Humans cannot create or destroy mercury. Pure mercury is a liquid metal, sometimes referred to as quicksilver that volatizes readily. It has traditionally been used to make products like thermometers, switches, and some light bulbs.

• Arsenic

Arsenic in mine and smelter dust brought home on a worker’s clothing was considered a source of a child’s poisoning. Arsenic is a semi-metal element in the periodic table. It is odorless and tasteless. It enters drinking water supplies from natural deposits in the earth or from agricultural and industrial practices.

Arsenic occurs naturally in rocks and soil, water, air, and plants and animals. It can be further released into the environment through natural activities such as volcanic action, erosion of rocks and forest fires, or through human actions. Approximately 90 percent of industrial arsenic in the U.S. is currently used as a wood preservative, but arsenic is also used in paints, dyes, metals, drugs, soaps and semi-conductors. High arsenic levels can also come from certain fertilizers and animal feeding operations. Industry practices such as copper smelting, mining and coal burning also contribute to arsenic in our environment.

• Cadmium

Cadmium in the homes of lead-smelter workers resulted in increased levels in the workers’ children. Some people who drink water containing cadmium well in excess of the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for many years could experience kidney damage.

Cadmium is used primarily for metal plating and coating operations, including transportation equipment, machinery and baking enamels, photography, and television phosphors. It is also used in nickel-cadmium solar batteries and pigments.

• Pesticides

Pesticide poisoning resulted in fatal and nonfatal cases in workers’ household members. Most reports occurred before1980, but three more recent cases exist.

Many household products are pesticides. All of these common products are considered pesticides:

  • Cockroach sprays and baits
  • Insect repellents for personal use.
  • Rat and other rodent poisons.
  • Flea and tick sprays, powders, and pet collars.
  • Kitchen, laundry, and bath disinfectants and sanitizers.
  • Products that kill mold and mildew.
  • Some lawn and garden products, such as weed killers.
  • Some swimming pool chemicals.

What is the balance between the risks and benefits of pesticides?

By their very nature, most pesticides create some risk of harm – Pesticides can cause harm to humans, animals, or the environment because they are designed to kill or otherwise adversely affect living organisms.

At the same time, pesticides are useful to society – Pesticides can kill potential disease-causing organisms and control insects, weeds, and other pests.

Are some pesticides safer than others?

Biologically-based pesticides, such as pheromones and microbial pesticides are becoming increasingly popular and often are safer than traditional chemical pesticides. In addition, EPA is registering reduced-risk conventional pesticides in increasing numbers.

• Caustic farm products

More than 40 farm children have been poisoned by caustic farm products.

A dairy operation uses a variety of chemicals, both acid and alkali-based for cleaning of the barns, parlors, and equipment. Most of these preparations are highly concentrated – powerful cleaning agents formulated for industrial settings. Although any of these agents can cause injuries, the most dangerous are the alkali cleaners that are used to disinfect and clean residual milk out of pipelines.

The alkalis used in dairies are generally sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide-based and range in concentration from 8 – 25%. These products are many times more caustic than a common household alkali–based drain cleaner

• Chlorinated Hydrocarbons

Family members have been exposed when workers brought these substances home on their clothing.

Chlorinated Hydrocarbons are a group of chemicals composed of carbon, chlorine and hydrogen. As pesticides, they are also referred to by several other names, including chlorinated organics, chlorinated insecticides and chlorinated synthetics. Although the first chlorinated hydrocarbon was synthesized in 1874, its insecticidal properties were not discovered until 1939 by the Swiss chemist, Paul Müller. It was introduced as DDT in 1942 during World War II and its subsequent use is responsible for saving millions of lives from vectored diseases such as typhus and malaria. The advantages of these synthetic chemicals over previously used botanical or natural insecticides were improved efficacy, lower use rates, lower costs and greater persistence. As with most of the chlorinated hydrocarbons, DDT has been banned for use in the United States, but is still used in some developing countries for combating insect vectors of disease.

• Asthmagens and allergens

Family members have had allergic reactions to allergens from animals, mushroom farming, grain dust, and other materials.

Industries and Asthmagens Associated with Work-Related Asthma  http://nj.gov/health/eoh/survweb/wra/documents/asthmagens.pdf

• Fibrous Glass

Family members have developed irritated skin after their clothing was washed with an insulation worker’s work clothes.

Fibrous glass is a name for manufactured fibers made of glass. Other names for fibrous glass are fiberglass and glass fibers. There are two types of fibrous glass: continuous filament glass and glass wool. Continuous filament glass is used to make fiberglass fabrics that reinforce plastics, foams, and other materials in boats, automobile bodies, and other products. Glass wool is the principal material in fiberglass insulation widely used in U.S. houses and buildings.

• Infectious Agents

Family members have caught diseases such as scabies and Q fever from the clothing and skin of workers from hospitals, laboratories, and agricultural facilities.

An infectious agent is a pathogen (germ). There are six kinds of infectious agents.

Here they are listed:-

Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_an_infectious_agent#ixzz1jwLbSMTO



The means by which hazardous substances have reached workers’ homes and families include:

• Work Clothing:

Cases involve beryllium, lead, pesticides, and other chemicals. In some cases washing machines and dryers contained dangerous levels of the materials, poisoning those laundering work clothes and contaminating other laundry.

• Tools and Equipment

Substances brought home on hand tools and other equipment have contaminated homes and vehicles. Cases involved mercury, pesticides, PCBs, and radioactive material.

• Taking items Home from Work

Items such as bags, rags, metal drums, and scrap lumber have caused serious and fatal poisonings of family members.


• The Worker’s Body

Reports document cases where workers passed dangerous materials to their family members by their hands.

• Cottage Industries

Twenty-two cases of contamination were found where work was done on home property. Contaminants included asbestos, lead, parathion, and mercury.

• Farming

Several cases were found where families lived on the property where the farming was done. These involved pesticides, caustic substances, and a hormone like chemical.

• Family Visits to the Workplace

Family members can be exposed to dangerous materials in dust or air through visits to work areas.



For people who work away from their home:

• Use good safety practices to reduce exposure;

• Leave soiled clothes at work;

• Change clothes before leaving work;

• Store non-work clothes away from work clothes;

• Shower before leaving work;

• Do not take tools, scrap, packaging, and similar items home;

• Inform workers;

• Launder work clothes separately; and

• Prevent family members from visiting the work area.


For people who work in their home:

• Keep work areas and living areas separate;

• Keep family members out of the work area;

• Store hazardous substances properly;

• Dispose of dangerous materials properly;

• Wash work clothes separately; and

• Inform workers and household members.



Prevention is best.

Decontamination is difficult and may not be effective.

Results depend on the cleaning methods used, the material to be removed, and the surface to be cleaned. Soft materials such as carpet and clothing are the hardest to clean. Lead, asbestos, pesticides, and beryllium are especially difficult to remove.

Normal housecleaning and laundry usually do not succeed. Sometimes, even the strongest decontamination methods fail.

Decontamination may even increase the hazard to people in the home by stirring materials into the air.

Decontamination procedures include:

• Air Showers;

• Laundering;

• Dry Cleaning;

• Shampooing;

• Airing;

• Vacuuming; and

• Other methods for cleaning surfaces.


National Institute for Occupational Safety and

Health at



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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

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