Concrete is one of the most widely used building materials, with applications ranging from floors, walls, and pavements to concrete blocks and mortar and grout mixes. While it is generally safe to use as a finished product, wet concrete can cause burns and cement dust can irritate the skin or cause lung diseases such as silicosis. In this article, we'll explore the toxicological effects of concrete and how to reduce exposure to it. Information on the toxicological effects of concrete tends to indicate problems when ingested, inhaled or in case of direct contact with the eyes, nose, mouth, sensitive areas, etc. However, there is no evidence of impacts such as carcinogenicity, mutagenicity or toxicity.
Cement and concrete are products widely used in the construction sector, with the traditional perception that the hazards they present are limited to dermatitis in a small number of workers. In some cases, employers and builders don't think concrete is a chemical. However, contact dermatitis is one of the most common health problems among construction workers. A review of the available literature suggests that cement has components that produce both irritating contact dermatitis and corrosive effects (from alkaline ingredients such as lime) and sensitization, leading to allergic contact dermatitis (from ingredients such as chromium).
These findings indicate that cement and concrete should be treated as hazardous materials, and that workers handling such products should reduce exposure whenever possible. Initiatives to reduce the chromium content of cement have been shown to be successful in reducing the incidence of allergic dermatitis, although the irritant form remains. Concrete dust can be very harmful. Even the slightest exposure can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat. Long-term exposure can cause lung cancer and other respiratory problems.
When inhaled through the mouth and nose, concrete dust can cause an allergic reaction, irritation of the mouth, nose, throat and lungs. In fact, concrete has been proven to be a safer material than many others, and polished concrete surfaces have replaced others made of materials that cause diseases such as hookworm. The corrosive purge water from the concrete is absorbed by the worker's pants and keeps it against the skin for extended periods. The allergy usually lasts a lifetime and prevents any future work with wet concrete or cement powder. It may not be possible to remove cement and concrete, but it is possible to use the safety of cement and concrete by controlling risks. With proper medical care, patients with concrete poisoning often improve after an 8-day hospitalization. Whether you are mixing a batch of concrete, using cement in other ways, or drilling concrete materials, you may be exposed to cement and concrete dust.
Sanding, grinding or cutting concrete can also release large amounts of dust that contain high levels of crystalline silica. Concrete has a high impact due to its widespread use; however paradoxically, the effects of not using it would be greater because the alternatives are even more damaging and cannot withstand high-rise buildings. In conclusion, while wet concrete can cause burns and cement dust can irritate the skin or cause lung diseases such as silicosis, it is safe to use as a finished product when handled properly. Employers should treat cement and concrete as hazardous materials and workers should reduce exposure whenever possible by wearing masks during use and ventilation.