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7.4.4 Eye and Skin Absorption

Some chemicals can be absorbed by the eyes and skin, resulting in a chemical exposure. Most situations of this type of exposure result from a chemical spill or splash to unprotected eyes or skin. Once absorbed by these organs, the chemical can quickly find its way into the bloodstream and cause further damage, in addition to the immediate effects that can occur to the eyes and the skin.

Symptoms of eye exposure can include itchy or burning sensations, blurred vision, discomfort, and blindness. The best way to protect yourself from chemical splashes to the eyes is to always wear safety glasses in the laboratory whenever eye hazards exist (chemicals, glassware, lasers, etc.). If you are pouring chemicals, then splash goggles are more appropriate than safety glasses. Whenever a severe splash hazard may exist, the use of a face shield, in combination with splash goggles is the best choice for protection.

Please note: a face shield by itself does not provide adequate eye protection.

If you do get chemicals in your eyes, immediately go to an eyewash station and flush your eyes for at least 15 minutes. The importance of flushing for at least 15 minutes cannot be overstated! Once the eyewash has been activated, use your fingers to hold your eyelids open and roll your eyeballs in the stream of water so the entire eye can be flushed. After flushing for at least 15 minutes, seek medical attention immediately and complete an Injury/Illness Report.

Symptoms of skin exposure to chemicals include dry, whitened skin, redness, swelling, rashes, blisters, itching, chemical burns, cuts, and defatting.

Please note: that some chemicals can be readily absorbed by the skin.

Laboratory workers can protect their skin from chemical exposure by selecting and wearing the proper gloves, wearing a lab coat and other personal protective equipment for special hazards (such as protective sleeves, face shields, and aprons), and not wearing shorts and sandals in areas where chemicals are being used - even if you are not using chemicals, but someone else in the lab is using chemicals nearby.

For small chemical splashes to the skin, remove any contaminated gloves, lab coats, etc., and wash the affected area with soap and water for at least 15 minutes. Seek medical attention afterward, especially if symptoms persist.

For large chemical splashes to the body, it is important to get to an emergency shower and start flushing for at least 15 minutes. Once under the shower, and after the shower has been activated, it is equally important to remove any contaminated clothing. Failure to remove contaminated clothing can result in the chemical being held against the skin and causing further chemical exposure and damage. After flushing for a minimum of 15 minutes, seek medical attention immediately and complete an Injury/Illness Report.

Please note: that some chemicals, such as Hydrofluoric acid, require use of a special antidote (such as Calcium gluconate gel) and special emergency procedures. Be sure to read SDSs for any chemical you work with to determine if a special antidote is needed when chemical exposure occurs.