How to Prevent Take-Home Contamination

Preventing take-home contamination is paramount for ensuring the safety and well-being of individuals and their families, particularly in environments where exposure to hazardous substances or pathogens is a concern. By adopting proper protocols, awareness, and practical measures, individuals can manage chemical risks and significantly reduce the potential for take-home contamination, safeguarding not only their own health but also that of those around them.

Welcome to this Chemscape presentation on preventing take-home contamination from chemicals in the workplace. Have you ever come home after a long day of work and hugged and played with your children while still dressed in your work clothes? You may be bringing hazardous chemicals home to your family. Chemicals from your work can travel home on your skin, hair, clothes, tools, and shoes. These chemicals follow you into your car, into your home, onto your floors, and furniture. They can even become airborne in your home environment. This contamination creates an exposure risk for family members, friends, and pets. It is called take-home exposure. It may seem like the amount of chemical residue brought home is very small, and cannot affect one's family, but this is not true. A small exposure every day for months or years can cause a wide range of health effects, particularly in sensitive individuals like children and the elderly.

Examples of Take-Home Exposure

An example of take-home exposure is housewives whose husbands worked in asbestos-related jobs that later developed mesothelioma, which is a lung cancer almost exclusively caused by asbestos fibers. Although these housewives never had direct contact to asbestos, they were exposed to the fibers left on their husband's work clothes that the wives laundered at home.  

Another example of take-home exposure involved lead exposure in children from workers who bring dirty clothes or tools home. The amount of lead is not enough to affect the workers' health, but the amount brought home was enough to cause a delay in the growth and brains of the workers' kids.

Who is Most Susceptible to Take-Home Contamination?

For take-home exposure, there is a greater risk for children because they spend lots of time on the floor and tend to put things in their mouths. Children are more susceptible to chemical hazards because they're in the stage of developing their organs and immune system, and have higher metabolic rates, resulting in greater exposure throughout their bodies. 

What are the Effects of Chemical Contamination?

More is understood about the effects of chemicals in adults. Chemicals are not typically tested for children's safety. For this reason, it is important to make sure chemicals are not taken home. Unlike this photo, most contamination is not this easy to identify. For this reason, it is important that chemicals and their residues are left at work.  

NIOSH research found contaminants that caused health effects among workers' families, including beryllium, asbestos, lead, silica, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, pesticides, chlorinated hydrocarbons, asthmagens, allergens, and fibrous glass. Understand the product you are working with. This begins by reviewing the safety data sheet. You can find this in sdsBinders. Ask your supervisor if you have questions or concerns.

How to Keep Chemicals at Work

Let's review take-home contamination from your workplace. The best way to keep chemicals out of your home is to keep them at the work site. Wear the recommended PPE so chemicals do not get on your skin and street clothes. Decontaminate at the end of your shift. Change your work clothes and shoes before leaving work. Keep your work clothes and shoes separate from your street clothes. Use a storage locker if available. If your workplace has a shower, it is ideal to have a shower before leaving work. If not, shower as soon as you get home. At a minimum, wash your hands before you leave work, and again, when you get home. Work shoes or boots have the highest potential for contamination. Be sure to clean footwear before entering your vehicle. Do not take tools, scrap, or similar items home. If you bring anything home, clean your equipment, store outside and out of reach of children. Most employers require workers to change clothes before going home and provide bins for dirty clothes. If yours does not, use a heavyweight plastic bag to prevent any dust from contaminating the car and home. 

Store the bag in the trunk of your car or truck. If you can't change clothes or shower at work, reduce the amount of chemicals that enter your home. Leave work shoes outside or in the garage. Change out-of-work clothes immediately. Keep work clothes isolated. Store outside the house in the garage. Never shake out your clothes. If you must wash your work clothes at home, wash them separately from personal laundry. Contaminants linger in the washing machine. To prevent cross-contamination with personal laundry, clean and thoroughly rinse out the machine before starting another load. There is a risk of fire or explosion when certain solvents or other chemicals are brought home on work clothes. Flame-resistant (FR) work wear has safety characteristics that are compromised if washed at home. Take them to your dry cleaner. 

Protect Against Chemical Exposures with Chemscape Safety Technologies

We hope the knowledge you have gained from this presentation will increase your awareness of chemical exposure and help encourage you to do everything you can do to protect yourself and your family.