The use of chemicals can cause various problems

Dear Editor,

Occupational problems caused by the use of chemicals in the workplace cover a very wide range of activities. We may cite the petroleum industry for example where the hazards range from toxicity as a result of handling chemicals or breathing in their vapours to the risk of explosive trauma. The scale of such operations means that many workers are potentially at risk.

The petroleum industry is one of the few which do implement safety measures at almost every level of product development, except perhaps at the final retailing stage where pump operators are daily exposed to gasoline fumes, particularly benzene, which is potentially carcinogenic.The final product in its leaded form also poses a major risk to car mechanics who often use it as a cleansing agent on the skin constituting one route of lead poisoning.

Problems with lead, of course arise in many other ways, for example, through the release of particles from car exhausts and whilst we are all concerned about this, it is salutary to note that in many Caribbean territories, one section of the” work force” i.e. very young children selling vegetables at busy traffic junctions are doubtless significantly affected through continuous exposure to this pollutant at a very susceptible age. The problem of lead also illustrates an important point. Often, the problems of occupational exposure to chemicals are not solely restricted to companies or individuals working and living in a particular area but are the concern of all consumers.

Therefore occupational health cannot easily be divorced from the wider issue of consumer and environmental concerns. I would like to know what mechanisms are in place for oil spills to come? The E.P.A. has proven inefficient to discharge its duty professionally with simple problems of dust and noise nuisances, can they police 83,000 square miles of Guyana.

Yours faithfully,

Mohamed Khan