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Health Effects of Workplace Chemicals Toluene, Benzene ... Effects of Workplace Chemicals Toluene,...

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  • Health Effects of Workplace Chemicals Toluene, Benzene, Methyl ethyl peroxide, and Epichlorohydrim

    Includes: Final Report

    By Tarannum Syed

    Completed for: Occupational and Environmental Health Coalition Supervising Professor: Dr. David Beresford, Trent University Trent Centre for Community-Based Education Department: Environmental and Resource Studies Course Code: BIOL 3891H Course Name: Community-Based Research Project Term: Fall 2010 Date of Project Submission: December, 2010 Project ID: 4127 Call Number:

  • Name: Tarannum Syed Professor: Dr. David Beresford Course Code: BIOL 3891H Completion date: December 2010

    Health Effects of Workplace Chemicals Toluene, Benzene, Methyl ethyl ketone peroxide, and


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    Abstract 2

    Keywords 2

    Acknowledgements 3

    Introduction 5

    Part 1 6

    Part 2 10

    Conclusion 22

    Literature Cited 23

    Appendix 31

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    Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are some of the most hazardous materials workers may

    be exposed to. This study reviewed the health effects of toluene, benzene, methyl ethyl ketone

    peroxide (MEKP) and epichlorohydrin (ECH). In part 1, the number of studies between the years

    2000 to 2010 that have investigated the health effects of each chemical in specific medical categories

    and those that have shown a correlation between negative health effects in the categories and the

    chemicals are represented in graphical form. In part 2, the most significant results of these studies

    are discussed. In reviewing the findings, it is apparent that toluene has significant effects on the

    central nervous system (CNS), development, reproductive system, immune system, liver, kidneys,

    auditory system and cardiovascular system; that benzene is a potent carcinogen and has pervasive

    adverse effects on the blood, CNS, immune system, and respiratory system; that MEKP may cause

    cancer and has substantial damaging effects on the skin, gastrointestinal tract and liver; and that

    ECH is a potential carcinogen and has negative effects on the cardiovascular system, kidney, liver,

    reproductive system and the respiratory system. Overall, the health hazards that this review

    highlights will help workplaces identify important health considerations when assessing dangers of

    worker exposure to these chemicals.


    General Keywords Chemical Keywords Health Effects Keywords - Occupational health

    and safety - Hazardous

    Chemicals - Health - Workplace

    - Toluene - Benzene - Methyl ethyl ketone

    peroxide - Epichlorohydrin

    - Immune system - Cardiovascular system - Respiratory system - Kidneys - Liver - Auditory system - Central nervous system - Blood - Development - Gastrointestinal tract - Skin - Reproductive system

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    Dr. Beresford’s guidance in what information to include, the most effective way to present

    this information, the most efficient way to do literature searches, and the number of chemicals to

    research was invaluable to me. He encouraged me to ensure that I am involved in this project in a

    way that would be personally and academically satisfying to me. He was always available to answer

    my questions and gave me much of his time. I am very appreciative of all of the ways in which Dr.

    Beresford supported me during the process of completing this project.

    I would also like to thank Paula Goodfellow Meyer, Kathy Dracup-Harris, Heather Brooks-

    Hill, John Ball and Dr. Noel Kerin from the “Occupational and Environmental Health Coalition,

    Peterborough” for their suggestions, time and dedication to making this project one that I felt

    comfortable with and believed would be academically enriching. Also, I appreciate the insights,

    experiences and perspectives that John Ball shared with me regarding workplace safety issues at a

    manufacturer in Peterborough, ON. I would also like to express my admiration for Mr. Ball’s

    perseverance in ensuring that workplace safety health hazards obtain the attention that they deserve

    from his community.

    In addition, Marjorie MacDonald from the Trent Centre for Community-Based Education

    was always available to clarify project procedures and protocols, to connect me with the host

    organization, and to provide support during my work on the project. I greatly appreciate her help in

    navigating the logical aspects of this project. I would like to thank all parties involved for a very

    rewarding experience.

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    The study of Occupational Health and Safety is concerned with worker exposure to

    hazardous chemicals within the workplace (Papadopoulos et al. 2010). Hazardous chemicals are

    elements, synthetic substances, or mixture of elements and synthetic substances that are considered

    harmful to employees (Papadopoulos et al. 2010). One group of hazardous chemicals is volatile

    organic compounds (VOCs) (Papadopoulos et al. 2010). VOCs evaporate more readily than water

    and have high vapour pressures (Boyes et al. 2007). They present unique challenges for workers

    because their vapours often have the ability to result in potent health effects, and individuals who are

    not directly exposed to these chemicals but share the same workplace air are susceptible to the risks

    of them; as such, compounds that are classified as VOCs are considered to be some of the most

    hazardous chemicals in workplaces (Papadopoulos et al. 2010). Some VOCs are toluene, benzene,

    methyl ethyl ketone peroxide (MEKP) and epichlorohydrin (ECH) (Papadopoulos et al. 2010; Boyes

    et al. 2007; Zhang et al. 2010; Shin et al. 2010; Hanausek et al. 2004).

    Although there are ongoing concerns regarding the adverse health effects of toluene,

    benzene, MEKP and ECH, they continue to be used in many workplaces, with several million

    workers within Canada exposed daily (Papadopoulos et al. 2010). The primary purpose of this study

    is to review significant findings on the health effects of toluene, benzene, MEKP and ECH that have

    been published between 2000 to 2010. It is essential to conduct such a study in order to address

    information that needs to be communicated to workplaces and workers that use these chemicals.

    Toluene, benzene, MEKP and ECH have many widespread health effects that remain after exposure

    occurs, and thus can significantly reduce the quality of life of many workers, emphasizing the need

    for workplaces to be pro-active (Shin et al. 2010). This study is also important because it will

    highlight gaps in the literature on these chemicals that could affect the current understanding of the

    health risks they pose.

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    Part 1: Quantitative Presentation of Literature on Health Effects of Toluene, Benzene, Methyl Ethyl Ketone Peroxide and Epichlorohydrin


    The Trent University Scholars Portal Database was used to research studies investigating the

    toxicity of the following chemicals: toluene, benzene, MEKP and ECH. In the initial search, the full

    name of each chemical was entered as a keyword. The titles/abstracts were reviewed to determine

    the medical categories that were relevant to the health effects of each chemical. During the next

    search, the chemical was entered as a keyword, and each medical category was entered in the

    abstract field. In the search results for each medical category, abstracts were reviewed to determine

    whether a relationship had been found between the chemical and the category. The search was

    limited to studies published within the years 2000 to 2010. The total number of studies that

    investigated the relationship between each chemical and each medical category was recorded. In

    addition, for each chemical, the number of studies showing toxicity effects within each category was

    recorded. A bar graph was generated for each chemical.

    To illustrate how these methods were applied to each chemical in this study, methyl ethyl

    ketone peroxide can be used as an example. “Methyl ethyl ketone peroxide” was entered in the

    search field and “keyword” was selected. In the refine by date field, the years 2000 to present were

    selected. The titles and/or abstracts of the results retrieved in the search were reviewed to determine

    what medical categories were relevant to methyl ethyl ketone peroxide toxicity. The skin,

    gastrointestinal tract and carcinogenesis were identified as prominent categories that had been

    investigated in studies that focused on the health effects of methyl ethyl ketone peroxide. In the next

    search, methyl ethyl ketone peroxide was entered in the search field and “keyword” was selected.

    Also, “skin” was entered in the search field and “abstract” was selected. In the results that were

    obtained, the abstracts were read to determine whether the studies had found that methyl ethyl

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    ketone peroxide produced toxic effects on the skin. The total number of results from this search was

    recorded, and the

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