Concrete is one of the most widely used materials in the world, and it has a significant global impact. But is it safe for humans? In this article, we'll explore the potential risks of concrete and how to stay safe when working with it. Wet concrete can cause burns and cement dust can irritate the skin or cause lung diseases such as silicosis. However, when used as a finished product, concrete is generally safe for humans.
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. But 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. The allergy usually lasts a lifetime and prevents any future work with wet concrete or cement powder. Chemical burns to the eyes, such as those caused by cement dust and concrete, can be minor irritation, but they can also be extremely painful and life-altering.
I had been kneeling in concrete that I had poured and now I had deep burns with some scabs on both knees and shins. Fine cement and concrete dust can fall on exposed skin and get caught between loose clothing and skin. Sanding, grinding or cutting concrete can also release large amounts of dust that contain high levels of crystalline silica. When inhaled through the mouth and nose, concrete dust can cause an allergic reaction, irritation of the mouth, nose, throat and lungs. When wet concrete or mortar is trapped against the skin, for example, when falling into a worker's boots or gloves or when submerged in protective clothing, the result can be first, second, or third degree burns or skin ulcers. 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. But continuous contact between skin and wet concrete allows alkaline compounds to penetrate and burn the skin. Concrete allows for many applications including floors, walls and pavements; blocks; different mortar and grout mixes; etc.
Silicosis can occur only weeks after being exposed to concrete dust, or it can take years before signs and symptoms appear. In conclusion, while there are potential risks associated with working with concrete, these risks can be minimized by taking proper safety precautions. Concrete is generally safe when used as a finished product but should be treated as a hazardous material when handling it.
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