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A hazardous chemical is defined by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration as any chemical that has been scientifically shown to be a health hazard (causes acute or chronic health effects) or a physical hazard (combustible liquid, explosive, flammable, etc.). This federal agency estimates that there are 575,000 chemicals in the workplace, with 53,000 being potentially hazardous.1 Considering that unplanned exposures and contamination can occur at any time during manufacturing, transport, storage, usage, or disposal of these chemicals, inevitably, emergency physicians can expect to occasionally be responsible for the management and care of a hazardous materials patient (see Chapter 5, Disaster Preparedness and Response).2

When managing a patient exposed to an industrial chemical, it is helpful to refer to the Material Safety Data Sheet and adhere to the recommendations regarding decontamination. Although the Material Safety Data Sheet will also include "first aid" recommendations (Table 198-1), the provider should also consult with a medical toxicologist or a regional poison control center to discuss case-specific hazards, optimal treatments, and dispositions. Contacting the regional poison control center facilitates data collection and analysis of toxicologic exposures. While many exposures produce immediate effects, some agents may result in delayed onset of symptoms that require at least 24 hours of observation (Table 198-2).

Table 198-1 Agents Absorbed through Intact Skin that May Result in Systemic Toxicity*
Table 198-2 Toxins with Delayed Onset of Symptoms or Requiring Prolonged Monitoring

This chapter discusses common industrial toxins that produce primarily respiratory toxicity (Table 198-3) and those that cause metabolic toxicity. Toxic chemicals discussed elsewhere include nerve agents and vesicants (see Chapter 8, Chemical Agents and Mass Casualties); hydrocarbons (see Chapter 193, Hydrocarbons and Volatile Substances); acids and alkalis (see Chapter 194...

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