• The Importance of Occupational Toxicology Testing

    Several studies have already recognized the different health hazards faced by individuals in the workplace. Exposure to chemical spills, for example, can lead to acute toxicity among workers. Toxicity may be classified as acute and chronic. Acute toxicity occurs rapidly following certain exposures: chemical spill, failure to use proper personal protective gears, systems failures, or accidents.  Whereas, chronic toxicity may require a certain cumulative dose or occur only following a latency period.

    The need for occupational toxicology test is particularly ideal for industrial workers.  Symptoms of occupational toxicity vary depending on which elements the employee may have been exposed to. Common signs of acute metal poisoning by the oral route include nausea, vomiting, and damage to the intestinal mucosa and gastrointestinal tract. Acute inhalation exposure to metals often results in nose and throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, and damage to the lungs and the respiratory lining. Acute dermal exposure can result in localized rash and skin irritation or discoloration. On the other hand, chronic exposure to metals can damage and impair the functions of the kidneys and livers.

    Organic solvents is another common cause of toxicity in the workplace. Due to the characteristic of volatility, solvent exposure occurs via the inhalation route, but there also may be absorption through the skin following exposures to vapors or through direct contact with the liquid form. One of the common physiological effects associated with high levels of exposure to some organic chemicals, including volatile solvents, is depression of central nervous system (CNS) activity.

    The diagnosis and treatment for occupational diseases rely heavily on emergency physicians. An occupational toxicology test can be helpful in the early detection and diagnosis of the employee’s symptoms. Existing literatures have defined occupational toxicology as a subdiscipline of toxicology that:

    • Identifies chemical, physical or biological hazards, encountered in the work environment
    • Recognizes adverse health effects that arise out of workers’ exposures to these toxicants
    • Establishes control measures to prevent or minimize exposure

    The table below shows some of the occupational toxicology test that a physician may recommend for individuals working in safety-sensitive industries to check exposure to certain chemicals that may pose threat to their health. The tests are categorized according to the type of specimens required.

    Urine-based Test

    Blood Test

    • Alcohol, Isopropyl, Occupational Exposure, urine
    • Acetone, Occupational Exposure, urine
    • Ethyl Acetate, Occupational Exposure, urine
    • Ethyl Ether, Occupational Exposure, urine
    • Arsenic Fractionation, urine
    • Alcohol, Methyl, Occupational Exposure, urine
    • Alcohol, Isopropyl, Occupational Exposure, serum
    • Acetone, Occupational Exposure, serum
    • Ethyl Ether, Occupational Exposure, serum
    • Ethyl Ether, Occupational Exposure, blood
    • PCB (Polychlorinated Biphenyls) Expanded Panel
    • Alcohol, Methyl, Occupational Exposure, blood
    • Alcohol, Methyl, Occupational Exposure, serum

    Reasons for Performing Occupational Toxicology Test

    Arsenic is one of the common causes of acute heavy metal poisoning in adults. This chemical is heavily present in factories manufacturing chemicals and glasses. Arsine gas is a common byproduct produced by the manufacturing of pesticides that contain arsenic. Other sources of arsenic are paints, rat poisoning, fungicides, and wood preservatives. Individuals working in manufacturing industry or fields where there is high exposure to chemical, physical or biological hazards are ideal candidates for occupational toxicology test.

    Workers including forklift operators, car painters, maintenance mechanic, and masonry workers are only some of the working individuals that are more vulnerable to chemical toxicity. The result of the test can help to clarify the risks to workers’ health and offer support for efficient risk-management strategies and decisions. The emergency physician must maintain a high suspicion for occupational toxicity and diseases because the diagnosis is not always obvious. Yet, when left untreated and undiagnosed, occupational toxicity can lead to signification morbidity and mortality.

    Pros and Cons of Occupational Toxicology Test

    One of the primary advantages of occupational toxicology test is the ability to identify the chemical in the workplace environment that causes occupational diseases among workers. Sample specimens drawn from the donor (employee) may include urine and blood, and the testing methodology may also vary depending on the specifics of the test.  Urine-based occupational toxicology test are pain-free, whereas the blood test types can pose discomfort to other people.

    When it comes to availability of the result, occupational tests that use immunoassay testing method have rapid turnaround time than those that go through more sophisticated methods (e.g. GC/MS, LC/MS).

    Nevertheless, when done right, occupational toxicology tests are efficient in providing diagnosis and treatment to the workers exposed to chemical toxicity.


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