Chlorinated solvents are a large family of chemical compounds
that contain chlorine, for example, carbon tetrachloride (carbon
tet), trichloroethylene (TCE), or methylene chloride. They are
used for a wide variety of commercial and industrial purposes,
including degreasers, cleaning solutions, paint thinners, pesticides,
resins, glues, and a host of other mixing and thinning solutions.
Their chlorine-containing chemical structure helps them: to efficiently
dissolve organic materials like fats and greases and to serve as
raw materials or intermediates in the production of other chemicals.
Workers can be exposed to chlorinated solvents through the absorption
of solvents, through inhalation and skin contact. Inhalation is
the most common form of workplace exposure, because the solvents
can readily evaporate. Skin contact is another important route
of exposure in the workplace.
Chlorinated solvents can leave the body through exhalation and/or
urination. Exposures can lead to short-term or long-term health
effects, depending on the manner by which they entered your body
and the amount of exposure. Short-term side effects may include
dizziness, fatigue, headaches, and/or skin rashes. Long-term side
effects may include chronic skin problems, and/or damage to the
nervous system, kidneys, or liver. Some chlorinated solvents are
also known to cause cancer, in both humans and animals.
Urine and blood tests can help determine if you have been exposed
to chlorinated solvents. Factors that determine whether you have
been harmed by your exposure include how much chlorinated solvents
you came into contact with, and the duration of the contact. An examination
by a physician trained to recognize signs of exposure to chlorinated
solvents, can help identify some of the health effects of such an
exposure. The physician can then advise you on how to reduce your
health risks and refer you for additional testing if necessary.