Hearing Loss Caused by Chemical Exposure - OSHA Guidance

Written By: Atanu Das on Thursday, August 15, 2019

These chemicals, called ototoxicants may cause hearing loss or balance problems, regardless of noise exposure. Substances including certain pesticides, solvents, and pharmaceuticals that contain ototoxicants can negatively affect how the ear functions, causing hearing loss, and/or affect balance.

Like other chemicals, one may be exposed to the effects of ototoxicants via inhalation, ingestion, or skin absorption. These chemicals are classified based on the part of the ear and connected neural fibers they damage. For workers in high noise environments, it is especially important to minimize exposure to these chemicals as noise induced hearing loss may be greater in these conditions.

The OSHA bulletin lists the following industries potentially using these chemicals:

  • Fabricated metal
  • Machinery
  • Leather and Allied Product
  • Textile and Apparel
  • Petroleum
  • Paper
  • Chemical (including Paint)
  • Plastics
  • Furniture and Related Product
  • Transportation Equipment (e.g. Ship and Boat Building)
  • Electrical Equipment, Appliance and Component (e.g., Batteries)
  • Solar Cell

The agency outlines a first step in exposure prevention is to consult your workplace SDSs. This information will often be identified in Section 11 - Toxicological Information. Once identified, employers should seek to either replace these chemicals with less harmful products or work on engineering control practices to reduce the risk to workers.

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