Shop Towels Create Health Risks

Shop Towels Create Health Risks: New Study Released

According to a new study recently published in Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, a large number of workers in manufacturing plants throughout the United States are actually being exposed to significant amounts of lead and other hazardous metals when they use laundered shop towels in the workplace.

This is no small problem. As many as 12 million manufacturing workers could be affected, based on numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s nearly nine percent of the workforce. One problem is that workers can’t feel, see or smell heavy metal residues on laundered shop towels, meaning that they don’t understand the risk as they use the towels to wipe up spills, clean parts and wash their hands.

The study measured and estimated exposure to heavy metals by workers who use laundered shop towels based on metal concentrations in the towels combined with exposure modelling. Once they estimated the exposure, they compared them to toxicity or regulatory standards. What they found was that the average worker used an average of 14 towels per day, which could mean exposure to at least 400 times, and as much as 1,170 times as much lead as the amount set as the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) amount to prevent negative reproductive health effects. The amount is also at least 19.5 times higher than the national Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) allowable amount of lead for drinking water.

In addition, the study found that workers may be exposed to higher than acceptable levels of other heavy metals, such as iron, cobalt, aluminum, copper and cadmium set by the EPA for drinking water, and other toxicity criteria set by the U.S. EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

The EPA and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) have been conducting studies and crafting regulations for years regarding worker exposure to and inhalation of heavy metals in the workplace. This study simply adds to what is a growing volume of data regarding health risks associated with workplaces using laundered shop towels. They were already worried about the spread of viruses and bacteria via the towels; this simply adds to the concern.

If you or a loved one work in a plant that uses laundered shop towels and you’ve become ill, there is a possibility that the towels were a possible cause. See a doctor, then contact the Texas Workplace Injury Lawyer at Hill Law Firm as soon as possible to protect your rights.


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