Hesperian Health Guides


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Keep chemicals out of your body

Reduce the amount of chemicals that get on and inside your body.

  • Wash your hands often, especially before eating, drinking, or smoking. This can stop chemicals from going into your mouth.
  • Wash your hands only with water and soap. Avoid using solvents to clean your hands.
  • Use skin lotion or hand cream on your hands after washing to prevent skin from drying. Healthy skin keeps out chemicals better than cracked, red skin.
  • Wear long sleeves to protect your arms.
  • Wear the right kind of protective gloves, especially if you add chemicals to the fabric. See Gloves on pages 262 to 265.
  • Wear a mask. If you can see, smell, or feel the effects of a chemical, the ventilation is probably not working or not strong enough to keep these chemicals away from your nose and mouth. See Masks and respirators on pages 266 to 270, and chapter 17: Ventilation.
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  • Tell your employer which fabrics cause rashes or breathing problems. Get him to change the fabric to one that does not cause rashes or other health problems.

Materials besides cloth can also cause allergies and rashes, such as nickel in rivets.

If you get a rash, see page 158 to learn how to reduce the discomforts of a rash and watch for signs of other health problems.

Organize to demand that your employer:

  • Label chemicals in the language workers speak and share Safety Data Sheets (SDS) with workers (see pages 180 to 182 to learn how to read an SDS).
  • Train all workers on safe chemical handling.
  • Improve machines and ventilation before trying to solve the problem with personal protective equipment.
  • Respect your country’s laws on chemicals at work. Keep information about your rashes or breathing problems in a health notebook (see page 47).

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Keep information about your rashes or breathing problems in a health notebook (see page 47).

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