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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Environmental Health Note/Occupational Hazards

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth's Diane Toomey reports on a study that shows teenage workers suffer illness from occupational exposure to disinfectants more often than adults.


CURWOOD: Just ahead: how humans are changing the ecosystem in ways that promote infectious diseases. First, this Environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.


TOOMEY: Most teenagers in the United States work at some point during their school years. And a new study shows that, compared to adults, children are more likely to become ill from occupational exposure to disinfectants.

Researchers gathered five years worth of data from the state of California and poison control centers across the country. They found more than 300 youths had became ill at work from disinfectants during that time. That’s about four times the annual rate for adults. None of the exposures were serious but more than 20 percent were considered moderate. For instance, one 17-year-old girl suffered corneal burns after accidentally splashing her face with disinfectant. In most cases, the youths were not wearing basic protective equipment such as gloves or goggles.

One industry stands out as being particularly prone to these types of accidents. Although just about a third of California youths worked in restaurants, that industry accounted for more than half of the reported disinfectant illnesses in that state. The authors say that their results point to the need for better education of employers, parents, and working children on the hazards of chemical exposure in the workplace and, perhaps, stronger regulations, as well.

That’s this week’s Health Note. I’m Diane Toomey.


CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Sebastian Tellier “Fantino” LOST IN TRANSLATION (Emperor Norton-2003) ]



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