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6 Long Term Risks of Working with Solvents


Let’s discuss what solvents are and shed light on their potential long-term effects on workers.

As a construction worker, you’re exposed to different risks every day. However, while most dangers are easily noticeable and avoidable, solvents are often a silent, deadly threat. And their prolonged use at work can lead to life-ending occupational illnesses. Let’s discuss what solvents are and shed light on their potential long-term effects on workers.

st. louis construction worker on job site

What Are Solvents?

Solvents are chemical compounds commonly used with construction products such as glues, thinners, or paints.

Commonly used solvents include acetone, acetate, toluene, ethyl, benzene, and xylene. These solvents usually enter the body through the skin, inhalation, or ingestion, causing catastrophic illnesses.

However, the extent of illnesses caused by solvent exposure varies depending on the solvent’s concentration in the air, the type of occupation, the period of exposure, or whether the solvent is fat or water-soluble.

Long-Term Effects of Solvents

Here are common effects of long-term solvent exposure:

1. Central Nervous System Effects

Prolonged exposure to solvents can cause memory impairment, anxiety, irritability, concentration issues, and slow reflexes. Sadly, these effects can heighten the risks of other work-related injuries.

2. Peripheral Neuropathy

Common signs of peripheral neuropathy include tingling or numbness in the feet, lower legs, and hands. Some workers with solvent-related peripheral neuropathy have also exhibited distal muscle wasting.

3. Loss of Senses

Repeated exposure to solvents may affect your sight, taste, and smell. As a result, you may experience color blindness and may not be able to smell and identify dangerous chemical releases.

4. Neurodegenerative Diseases

Chronic solvents may lead to movement-altering conditions such as Alzheimer’s, essential tremor, or Parkinson’s disease.


Prolonged exposure to benzene can damage your bone marrow and lead to aplastic anemia. Benzene has also been known to cause leukemia.

6. Renal Disease

Working with solvents for a long period may lead to severe kidney problems such as chronic renal disease. Also, inhaling high levels of solvent can lead to loss of consciousness or even death.

How to Control the Risks of Solvent Exposure

The best way to avoid solvent-related occupational illnesses is to substitute the most dangerous solvents such as benzene with less risky ones. Alternatively, you can avoid using materials with solvent all together.

However, if solvents have to be used to complete work, you should generally use recommended personal protective equipment. Some of the best PPE that might reduce exposure include gloves, eye protectors, overalls, and respirators. Equally important, make sure your work area is adequately ventilated to minimize the vapor concentration.

St. Louis Workers Compensation Attorney

Have you suffered an occupational illness due to long-term exposure to solvents? Get in touch with our experienced St. Louis workers’ compensation attorneys 24/7 for a free case evaluation.

Updated: November 18, 2021
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