Work-Related Workplace Chemical Hazards that Cause Liver Damage

What Causes Liver Damage in the Workplace?

The liver is highly susceptible to toxicity from chemicals in the workplace because of its important role in detoxification. The liver processes almost all chemicals and drugs that enter the blood stream and removes the chemicals that are difficult for the kidneys to excrete.  

The liver turns these chemicals into products that can be eliminated from the body through bile or urine. However, during this chemical process in the liver, unstable and highly toxic bi-products are sometimes produced; these highly toxic bi-products can attack and injure the liver. 

The liver’s role in detoxification makes it is highly susceptible to toxicity, and for this reason, occupational exposure to chemicals should be a concern. Chemicals that are known to damage the liver are called hepatotoxins and the term hepatotoxicity is used to describe a liver that has been damaged by chemicals.

Do all workplace chemicals affect the liver in the same way?

Toxins that can damage the liver have been divided into two groups:

Predictable Toxins

Predictable toxins are known to cause toxic hepatitis and liver damage with sufficient exposure to one or more of these chemicals. Examples of chemicals found in this group are cleaning solvents, carbon tetrachloride and the pain reliever acetaminophen.  

Unpredictable Toxins

Unpredictable toxins damage the liver in a very small proportion of individuals exposed to the chemical. Unpredictable injury produced by most drugs is very poorly understood, but recent data suggest that a toxic response to a drug probably depends on the kind of enzyme a person inherits to metabolize the drug.  

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.


Elevate the level of occupational health standards for your company.

What is Toxic Hepatitis?

Toxic hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by chemicals. Many chemicals that are intentionally or unintentionally inhaled or consumed can have toxic effects on the liver.

Since the liver is continually targeted by chemicals, extended chemical exposure can cause genetic mutations that cause cancer. Common chemicals known to cause liver cancer are herbicides, vinyl chloride and arsenic.  

Toxic Hepatitis & Work-Related Liver Damage

Toxic hepatitis can be caused by the inhalation or ingestion of various substances including alcohol, non-prescription pain medication, prescription medication, herbs, as well as workplace chemicals. Common chemicals that can cause liver damage in the workplace include the dry-cleaning solvent carbon tetrachloride, vinyl chloride (used to make plastics), the herbicide paraquat and a group of industrial chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls. 


Keep your workers healthy, safe, and productive.