Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 8: Chemical dangers

HealthWiki > Workers' Guide to Health and Safety > Chapter 8: Chemical dangers

Chemicals surround us. They are in our homes, our schools, our work, and in our water and air. We get so used to them that sometimes we forget about them and ignore them. Other times, we fear them.

What we really need to know is: If a chemical can harm our health, what can we do to make ourselves safer? The answer depends on:

  • What chemical is it?
  • What form do you use it in?
  • How does it get onto or into your body?
  • To how much and for how long are you exposed?

No chemical is more important than a human being. We have the right, as workers and consumers, to live free from the illnesses caused by the use of dangerous chemicals.

Why would anybody use chemicals that can harm, disable, or kill people? Chemical companies and factory owners say chemicals can be "easily" controlled and used safely. But when the controls fail, do not protect enough, or are not used in the first place because the bosses think they cut into profits, it is the workers or people in surrounding communities who pay with their health.

To protect workers, the environment, and the community, we have to reduce the use of chemicals that harm our health, replace them with safer chemicals used in safer ways, and eliminate and ban toxic chemicals.

For information on specific chemicals, see Appendix B: Common chemicals and materials. For our sources for chemical information, see Where did this information about chemicals come from?.

a scientist taking money from a man with a briefcase while pointing to a sign.
a woman running from the sign after painting it to change its meaning.

This page was updated:28 Feb 2021