Hesperian Health Guides

Work with Chemicals

Every day 20,000 people visit the HealthWiki for lifesaving health information. A gift of just $5 helps make this possible!

Make a giftMake a gift to support this essential health information people depend on.

HealthWiki > Where Women Have No Doctor > Chapter 26: Work > Work with Chemicals

WWHND10 Ch26 Page 402-1.png

Avoid all unnecessary contact with chemicals.

Many women have contact with dangerous chemicals, often without knowing it. This is because many modern products used in daily life and at work contain hidden chemicals. Some of them can be very harmful, such as:

  • pesticides, fertilizers, weed killers, and animal dips.
  • paints, paint thinners, paint remover and solvents.
  • fuels and pottery glazes with lead in them.
  • cleaning products containing bleach and lye.
  • hair dressing and beauty products.

Health problems

Some chemicals cause harm to your body right away, even if you do not feel sick. Others cause harm that shows up later on, even after you have stopped using the chemicals. Some damage lasts only a short time. Other damage is permanent.


To reduce the health risks from working with harmful chemicals, try to:

a skull and crossbones
Keep chemicals away from children. Always look for poison warnings, or this picture, on the label.

a woman lying on her back while someone pours water over her eye
  • avoid getting chemicals on your skin. When using chemicals at home, use rubber kitchen gloves (or plastic bags). When using chemicals at work, including farming, use thicker gloves and wear shoes. Otherwise, chemicals can get into your body.
  • wash your hands after touching chemicals. If you have been using strong chemicals, like pesticides, change your clothes and wash yourself before eating or coming into the house. Use rubber gloves when you wash these clothes.
  • avoid breathing in fumes (vapors) from chemicals. Work where fresh air flows freely. A cloth or paper mask will not protect you from breathing in chemical fumes.
  • keep chemicals away from food. Never use chemical storage containers for food or water, even after they have been washed. A container that looks very clean can still have enough chemical to poison the food or water. Do not use sprays near food or on a windy day.

If a chemical gets in your eye, flush it immediately with water. Keep flushing for 15 minutes. Do not let the water get into the other eye. If your eye is burned, see a health worker.

This page was updated:17 Apr 2019