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Home > Personal Injury > Industrial Diseases > Personal injury caused by exposure to solvents

Personal injury caused by exposure to solvents

The health risks of solvents

The term solvent is applied to a group of liquid chemicals which share important similarities. The most common solvent is water. However, some substances cannot be dissolved in water and therefore other solvents have to be used. Strong chemicals such as benzene and toluene, are used as solvents to dilute or dissolve another substance and these chemicals can cause serious injuries and long-term effects like cancer.

Please select one of the links below to see how Clear Answers specialist industrial disease lawyers may be able to help you make a claim for personal injury compensation.

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Exposure to solvents

You may be exposed to solvents in a number of ways but one way is that as they evaporate their vapour can be breathed in. They can also be absorbed through contact with the skin, especially if the contact is prolonged. And of course they can also be digested if swallowed.

Solvents are used in many industrial and commercial applications and the risk of exposure can therefore be widespread. Typically they are used in manufacturing industries such as footwear, textiles, printing, rubber products, as well as many uses in the construction industry. They are also used for producing other chemicals such as paint thinners, lubricants and for cleaning such as degreasing and dry cleaning products.

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Clear Answers’ specialist personal injury lawyers

Please seek expert legal advice if you think you may have a valid industrial disease compensation claim as strict time limits apply.

Clear Answers’ personal injury advice lawyers specialise in all types of industrial injury claims, but have particular experience in dealing with compensation claims involving exposure to hazardous substances, such as solvents.

Please visit our section on information and advice for more details on making a personal injury compensation claim.

Telephone us now on 0800 783 9019 or complete one of our online compensation claim forms and a representative will contact you as soon as possible.

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Symptoms of exposure to solvents

Although accidents involving exposure to solvents are rare, they can and do happen. If employees are asked to handle dangerous solvents in the workplace, without the necessary protective clothing, or even the correct training, they are being exposed to an unnecessary risk of absorbing solvent fumes.
If not handled correctly, and absorption occurs, you may experience irritation of the nose, eyes, lungs and skin. You may also experience headaches, clumsiness, nausea and dizziness and in extreme cases, exposure can result in death.

Short-term exposure to solvents

The symptoms of your exposure will depend on the nature of your exposure. Short term exposure will usually clear up within a few hours if the exposure stops. However, whilst you are affected by the exposure, you are more likely to have an accident as the solvent can attack the central nervous system, resulting in effects similar to alcohol.

Typically, greater exposure causes more severe symptoms, and can cause unconsciousness and death in serious cases.

Long-term exposure to solvents

The long-term effects of exposure to solvents can be serious, even if levels of exposure may be low. Your organs, like kidneys or liver, may suffer damage, as well as the brain and nervous system, and it can result in infertility. The effects on the nervous system may include problems with concentration, sleep and personality disorders, and more seriously, some solvents such as chloroform and benzene, are known to be carcinogenic.

Liquid solvents

Protective clothing and goggles should always be provided to workers handling liquid solvents. However, if the solvents make contact with the skin, you may experience irritation and see a rash. Splashes can seriously damage the eyes so goggles should be worn at all times.

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Treatment for exposure to solvents

Tests to detect whether you have been exposed to solvents, and the level of exposure you have suffered, generally need to be carried out soon after exposure as the levels in your bloodstream begin to disappear after a day or so. Blood and urine analysis will detect whether vital organs such as the brain, heart or kidneys have been affected in more severe exposure situations.

It is vital that once detected, exposure to solvents ceases immediately as prolonged exposure will continue to cause damage. Where exposure has occurred through inhalation, oxygen will be given to counter the effects of the vapour in the body. For skin exposure, medicine can be prescribed but for serious instances of exposure, some hospitalisation will be necessary.

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Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations

The COSHH Regulations were put in place to protect workers from exposure to chemicals and other substances in the workplace. Under these regulations, employers have a duty to manage work activities to avoid exposure or in some circumstances to control and reduce exposure to solvents to low levels.

Employers should carry out risk assessments and take appropriate protective steps to safeguard workers health, including the removal of the hazard completely or, in some situations, safely control and reduce any potential exposure to the chemicals. The use of protective gloves, goggles, respiratory protection and protective clothing are to be the last resort.

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Evidence of exposure to solvents

If you or anyone you know has been injured or contracted an illness or disease as a direct result of being exposed to solvents, you may wish to contact a lawyer for some claims advice. In the meantime, however, it is important that you retain any evidence you may have which supports your exposure and ensure that when you visit your GP or hospital for treatment you mention the cause of your injury to your doctor. If you can safely retain labels, packaging or other manufacturers / suppliers data sheets and usage instructions so as to identify the chemicals involved, this is very helpful. You need to report your symptoms to your employer and complete an accident report.

Also remember to retain evidence of any injury-related expenses such as receipts for prescriptions or medication and evidence of travelling expenses.

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Personal injury news stories

Clear Answers personal injury solicitors deal with a large number of industrial disease compensation claims each year, including those resulting from negligent exposure to hazardous substances such as solvents. Please visit our Personal Injury News Section to view details of these stories and other successful personal injury compensation claims that Clear Answers’ solicitors have been involved in.

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Personal injury claim advice regarding exposure to solvents

Providing it can be proven that your injury was caused by your exposure to the hazardous substance and the person / company who allowed you to be exposed to the chemical was negligent or in breach of applicable statutory regulations, then your claim for compensation should be valid.

Clear Answers’ lawyers will be able to advise you whether you have a valid claim for compensation. Our specialist industrial disease lawyers are experts in all personal injury matters. We will be happy to talk you through the process of making a claim in plain English and will be happy to answer any questions or queries you may have.

Telephone us now on 0800 783 9019 or complete one of our online compensation claim forms and a representative will contact you as soon as possible.

There are strict time limits in place to make any personal injury claim. For further information, contact us or visit our Questions Answered page.

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