The vast majority of poison exposures occur in the home but the office has its own risks. For example, in 2008, 1.75 percent of all poison exposures reported to poison centers occurred in the office – putting offices a distant second to homes as sites where poison exposures occurred. It’s easy to take for granted dangers in the office, particularly when focused on getting a job done. The Texas Poison Center Network (TPCN) wants to reduce poisonings in every setting, including the office. It offers the following tips at keeping the office poison-free:
- Be careful when handling laser printer cartridges. A poison exposure can occur when laser printer cartridge resin or powder is spilled. Fumes, dust or ozone from the cartridges can be dangerous if inhaled.
- Fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury, phosphorus, or other rare gases and should be handled and replaced by professionals. The same goes for energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFL bulbs.
- Beware of the lunchroom, and particularly the office refrigerator. Foods stored in the company break or lunch room refrigerator can spoil, leaving the potential for food poisonings.
- Office supplies such as keyboard cleaners, markers, glues or white-out help to get the job done, but can be dangerous if misused or abused by inhalation referred to as huffing or sniffing. Make sure these key office supplies are used for their intended purpose. Verify or make labels for all office chemicals and cleaning supplies.
- Don’t treat air fresheners in the bathrooms or other office cleaning supplies casually. Mixing or handling such products improperly can cause irritation to the skin, dizziness or breathing difficulties.
- The same dangers present in the household are also a danger in the office. Read labels and use caution when taking over-the-counter or prescription medications, particular if high skill jobs require the handling of potentially dangerous equipment or instruments on the job.
- Be wary of bugs. Fire ants can enter an office building through leaking windows or siding. To some, fire ants are just a nuisance, but to others, the sting from a fire ant can cause a bad reaction. The Brown Recluse spider, as well, can be found in old stored boxes or in unused files, old file cabinets or drawers and under unmoved furniture or old carpet. The brown recluse spider can do a lot of damage, but with immediately care, it typically does not progress to severe tissue damage. The Black Widow spider is another spider that can be found in inconspicuous places. This particular spider attacks the nervous system and may lead to severe muscle pain.
The TPCN serves the State of Texas to prevent poisoning. TPCN offers free and confidential services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you believe you’ve been exposed to a poison or have questions about a substance that may be poisonous, call 1-800-222-1222.