Toxic illness is a general description that encompasses any illness that a person contracts from prolonged exposure to toxins or hazardous chemicals. Hazardous chemicals or toxins can enter the body either through inhalation or absorption by physical contact. Prolonged exposure can lead to a toxic illness.
Many illnesses are caused by prolonged exposure to toxic substances. Inhaled toxins can lead to respiratory illnesses and diseases including cardiopulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other diseases. Inhaled toxins can also lead to illnesses that cause brain and nerve damage. Toxins that are absorbed by the skin can enter the tissues and blood stream and cause cell damage. Absorbed toxins can lead to many different types of cancers (Leukemia, Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma) and other life-threatening illnesses.
Toxic substances may be found in any number of places, but overexposure is often experienced in the workplace. The U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), maintains a list of nearly 1,500 hazardous chemicals commonly found in industrial workplaces. When workplace chemicals are not labeled and utilized properly, damage, injury, and illness can occur. To strengthen safety warnings, OSHA has now adopted the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for labeling and classifying hazardous chemicals. The new system classifies hazardous chemicals into 11 health hazards and 16 physical hazards.
Contaminants can come in many forms. The most common come in the form of air contaminants, mineral dusts, mold spores, paints, fuels, solvents, powders, and other mixtures. Many contaminants are no longer actively used in the United States, such as asbestos, commonly used in building materials in, but can still exist in older structures. Other chemicals, such as benzene which is found in petroleum products, have been banned in the U.S. Yet, many workers in the industry are still vulnerable to toxic illnesses, such as illnesses caused by benzene absorption or inhalation, especially if they work with imported products from foreign countries.
Individuals who work in industrial settings and with chemicals of any nature should see a physician regularly for check-ups, especially if they begin to experience any symptoms which could be related to a toxic illness.
Symptoms of toxic illness vary depending on the cause or contaminant and the disease or illness. Bodily health systems affected by toxins include physical, mental, and neurological systems. Noticeable symptoms may include: respiratory issues, skin irritation, vision problems, hearing problems, disorientation, dizziness, confusion, anxiety, depression, memory loss, weight loss, hair loss, reproductive issues, fatigue, recurring cold or flu like symptoms, chronic aches and pains, and more. Certainly many of these symptoms are naturally caused by aging. Yet, early or rapid onset could also be an indication of a toxic illness. Thus, it is important for those who work with hazardous chemicals to be proactive about their health care by following the recommended protocols and seeing a physician for regular physicals.
Yet, no matter how many precautions are taken, sometimes accidental exposure or overexposure to harmful chemicals occurs. In occupational exposure situations, it is important for individuals to note what chemicals they may have been exposed to, and when, where, and how often they were exposed. These factors are important in helping physicians determine the cause and extent of the toxic illness.