Workplace Chemical Hazards & the Blood System


Workplace Chemical Hazards & the Blood System

How do chemicals affect the health of the blood system? 

Blood is essential for human life. Blood runs through our arteries and veins carrying oxygen and nutrients to the body’s organs. There are many occupational chemicals and metals that have been identified as targeting the blood.  The following are a few examples:  

  1. Benzene

    Benzene also has an effect on the blood because it inhibits the bone marrow’s ability to develop blood cells.  Over exposure to benzene could potentially result in anemia or leukemia or even a total loss of bone marrow. Long-term exposure to benzene has been associated with development of a particular type of leukemia called acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Both the International Agency for Cancer Research and the EPA have determined that benzene is carcinogenic to humans.

  2. Malathion

    A common chemical ingredient in insecticides is malathion. Malathion can affect a protein called cholinesterase found in both red blood cells and in blood plasma. Without the proper levels of cholinesterase, nerves in the body can become over stimulated, leading to symptoms such as blurred vision, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, loss of consciousness and even death.

  3. 2-Butoxyethanol

    2-butoxyethanol is chemical ingredient found in some glass cleaners, paint removers and epoxy primers. Prolonged or repeated exposure to this chemical can cause damage to red blood cells and blood forming organs.

Blood Cell Type  

Disease associated  

Red Blood Cell 

Anemia 
Sickle cell anemia 

White Blood Cells 

Leukemia 
HIV 
Non-Hodgkin lymphomas 

Platelets 

Thrombocytopenia 

Clotting Issue 

Hemophilia 
Von Willebrand disease 

 

There are several diseases associated with the blood listed here. We will look at the most common diseases associated with occupational exposure to chemicals.  

The Most Common Blood Diseases Related to Chemical Exposure

Anemia

The most common red blood cell disorder is anemia. Anemia is a decrease in red blood cells resulting in poor circulation of oxygen and nutrients to vital organs.  Anemia usually is caused by either inadequate red blood cell production or unusually rapid red blood cell destruction.

Leukemia

Leukemia is a cancer of the cells that produce white blood cells. There are several types of leukemia’s and they are often described as being either acute (fast growing) or chronic (slow growing).

Reading the Safety Data Sheet for the chemicals you work with and understanding the hazards you are working with is an important step in prevention.