Other Substances and Contaminants
10 Hazardous Substances For Sample Testing
Depending on the substance, best practices will vary when collecting these samples. Unless you are comfortable with doing it yourself, please call in advance before you retrieve any sample; exposure to these substances can be risky. It’s a good idea to read Health Canada’s occupational guide to the management of hazardous material before collection.
Before 1990 some vermiculite (a substance used to make insulation) contained asbestos.
Between 1919 and 1990 a mine close to Libby, Montana produced over 70% of the vermiculite sold in North America. The problem is that there was an asbestos deposit nearby, so the vermiculite was contaminated.
If there is vermiculite insulation in your home, it’s best to leave it alone and undisturbed, unless you’re doing renovations.
Released into the environment from coal burning and gold mining, the most common mercury exposure to humans is through eating fish, dental fillings and industrial work.
Symptoms of metal poisoning from mercury exposure include:
- Weak muscles
- Numbness in hands and feet
- Memory loss
- Difficulty speaking, hearing and seeing
Silica is a fine dust most commonly associated with abrasive sandblasting. Short-term exposure can cause irritation to the nose and throat. Long-term exposure can cause lung damage, and it is a known carcinogen.
Used as a bonding agent in plastics it is also found in automotive parts, pipe fittings, drinking tumblers and other housewares items. The effects of acrylonitrile poisoning are likened to cyanide poisoning, and it is highly toxic even at low doses.
Benzene is a volatile organic compound (VOC) and a natural petrochemical found in fossil fuel products. Exposure to humans can occur through vehicle exhaust, and has also been known to occur in drinking water.
7. Coke Oven Emissions
Used for the production of steel, coke ovens give off a variety of toxic chemicals that leave workers and surrounding environment subject to exposure. While creative cleanup efforts of former steel mills exist, environmental monitoring is crucial to maintaining public and workers health.
8. Ethylene Oxide
Highly toxic, highly flammable colourless gas, ethylene oxide is a classified carcinogen found in antifreeze, sterilizing agents, disinfectants, fumigants, and insecticides. Exposure can cause eye, skin and respiratory irritation and neurological impairment.
10. Vinyl Chloride
Highly flammable, highly toxic carcinogen, vinyl chloride is an important chemical used in the production of plastics (PVC piping in particular). Typically, exposure occurs at the industrial worker level, but it also harbors the potential to leach into local water supplies.