August 2017 Safety Topic: Airborne Contaminants

Airborne contaminants can cause many different problems. They can create temporary or ongoing irritation or damage to the nose, throat, and lungs. Depending on the situation, they can cause poisoning, which can lead to irreversible damage to internal organs such as the liver. The effect of airborne contaminants to your body can either take place instantly or it can take years to develop.

Air can be contaminated by these and other substances, such as the following:

  • Gases that are toxic or displace oxygen
  • Dust created when materials are ground down into small particles that can enter the body via inhalation
  • Mists created when liquids are sprayed
  • Fumes and smoke that are created when materials are heated or burned
  • Vapors that are given off by volatile liquids

In work environments where airborne contaminants are present, the most effective measures that are used to protect from airborne contaminants consist of the following:

  • Elimination of the source, if possible
  • Containment and ventilation, such as an exhaust system
  • Reviewing work practices to make sure safe practices are in effect
  • Personal measures such as gloves, dust mask, and proper work clothing

For more information or questions about airborne contaminants, please speak with your supervisor or contact a member of the Campus Life Safety and Regulatory Compliance team.