Many of the chemicals used in industrial manufacturing are considered toxic and have the potential to harm or even kill humans and other organisms. The toxic effects can sometimes be acute and immediate, with exposure to high concentrations causing instant poisoning. In other cases, the effects are chronic and cumulative, with long-term exposure to relatively small amounts leading to health problems and diseases later in life.
It’s therefore essential to use the correct protective gear and equipment when handling hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Standard PPE includes gloves, goggles, breathing apparatus, boots, and protective clothing. Anyone working with dangerous chemicals must also follow strict safety protocols and always ensure that emergency equipment like fire extinguishers is readily available.
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What is industrial manufacturing?
Industrial manufacturing refers to the mass production of goods, including both finished products and component parts. The process involves using industrial-sized machinery and assembly lines to produce large quantities of products from raw materials. These products cover a range of sectors and include everything from food and beverages to aeroplane parts and car components.
Industrial manufacturing can be broadly classified into two categories – consumer manufacturing (making products for the end-user) and B2B manufacturing (making products for other manufacturers). Some of the top manufacturing sectors within these general categories include:
- Food manufacturing
- Beverage and tobacco products
- Chemical manufacturing
- Petroleum and coal products
- Electronic equipment
- Textile product mills
- Apparel manufacturing
- Automobile manufacturing
- Paper manufacturing
- Plastics and rubber products
- Non-metallic mineral products
- Fabricated metal products
- Appliance and component manufacturing
- Heavy equipment manufacturing
- Furniture and related products.
What are toxic industrial chemicals?
Toxic industrial chemicals are harmful chemicals that can cause poisoning, allergic reactions or chronic diseases. They’re either used to manufacture the goods themselves or they can be the waste byproducts of the manufacturing process.
Chemicals have different levels of toxicity to humans and other organisms. Even water can be dangerous if you consume too much of it. On the other hand, many of the chemicals that are used in industrial manufacturing are toxic at relatively low concentrations. Depending on the chemical, exposure can cause a variety of symptoms such as allergic reactions, vomiting, nausea, muscle spasms, headache, weakness, breathing difficulties, and burning sensations. Certain chemicals are also considered carcinogens, which means they cause cancer in humans.
What’s more, some toxic industrial chemicals are highly corrosive, volatile and/or flammable. To help prevent accidents, injury or even death, it’s vital to take the proper precautions when handling any kind of toxic chemical.
Is industrial manufacturing dangerous?
There are always risks involved in industrial manufacturing. The chemicals and machinery used during production can potentially harm workers and the environment, although the danger can be significantly reduced if you take the proper precautions and follow the recommended safety protocols.
5 of the most dangerous chemicals
Various types of dangerous chemicals are used in industrial manufacturing. Many of these substances are used as solvents, ingredients, reagents, cleaning agents, and protective coatings. Some are transformed into other chemicals and rendered inert, while others leave trace amounts even after the manufacturing process is complete.
Here are five examples of dangerous chemicals that are regularly used in industrial manufacturing.
Chromium is an element commonly used in the metallurgical industry to harden steel and provide a protective layer against corrosion. It can be combined with nickel, iron-nickel, and cobalt to form a protective alloy against oxidation. Chromium can also be used to coat steel surfaces through electroplating methods and provide a polished mirror finish. Stainless steel contains at least 12% chromium.
Chromium is toxic to humans, especially when microparticles are inhaled. Its chemical compounds can irritate the lungs and cause severe dermatitis and skin ulcers. Prolonged exposure to chromium can have serious adverse effects on the respiratory system, potentially leading to cancer of the lungs, nasal passages, and sinuses.
Many of us are familiar with zinc as a component of dry cell batteries, but it actually has a wide range of industrial applications. Approximately 75% of zinc is used in its elemental, metal form, mainly as a protective layer for iron and steel. Iron and steel are galvanised with zinc to prevent corrosion. When combined with other metals, it can also form alloys such as bronze and brass. The remaining 25% of zinc is used to manufacture other goods like rubber, medicines and agricultural products.
Although zinc is an essential micronutrient for humans, it can have toxic effects. The industrial use of zinc, especially zinc chloride fumes, can be detrimental to health. Some of the health risks associated with zinc include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, headaches, and dizziness.
Approximately 80% of industrially-produced ammonia is used to manufacture fertilisers. The remaining 20% is used for refrigeration, water purification, and in the manufacture of products such as plastics, explosives, pesticides, and dyes.
Highly-concentrated ammonia gas is very toxic. Inhaling it can immediately cause chemical burns to the air passage, lungs, and eyes. Exposure can also result in blindness and, in some cases, it can even prove fatal.
Benzene is an aromatic hydrocarbon with a wide range of applications. It’s commonly used in the chemical industry for the manufacture of various products including plastics, synthetic fibres, rubber, dyes, medicines, and pesticides.
Classed as a carcinogenic substance, benzene can interfere with the body’s various physiological and metabolic functions. For instance, it prevents bone marrow from producing red blood cells. At the same time, it can destroy white blood cells, thereby compromising the immune system.
Mercury is a toxic heavy metal that’s commonly used in gold mining to separate gold from ores. It dissolves gold much like water dissolves salt. The gold is later separated by boiling the mercury away.
Mercury is also used in the industrial manufacture of chlorine gas and caustic soda. Other applications of mercury include thermometers, barometers, and batteries. Although mercury has many uses, it’s a dangerous substance that can cause a host of neurological problems. High levels of mercury can damage the kidneys, liver, and nervous system.
These are just a few examples of dangerous chemicals that are commonly used in industrial manufacturing. You can read more about hazardous workplace chemicals here.
Industrial manufacturing often requires the use of dangerous chemicals like chromium, zinc, ammonia, benzene, and mercury. These chemicals may be used as solvents, reagents, ingredients or cleaning agents. Exposure to these types of substances can cause serious illness or even death, so it’s essential to wear PPE and follow the relevant safety protocols.
The blog on chemicals.co.uk and everything published on it is provided as an information resource only. The blog, its authors and affiliates accept no responsibility for any accident, injury or damage caused in part or directly from following the information provided on this website. We do not recommend using any chemical without first consulting the Material Safety Data Sheet which can be obtained from the manufacturer and following the safety advice and precautions on the product label. If you are in any doubt about health and safety issues please consult the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).