Don’t Take Work Home With You: How To Prevent Contamination From Clothing

Asbestos // October 23, 2015

Industrial and construction workplace environments are notoriously dangerous; risks are part of the job description. Hazards such as heights and other immediately threatening situations are often at the forefront of concern.

However, there are other threats that can be carried home on clothing, equipment and other work items. In this way, workers can unknowingly expose their families and friends to hazardous substances that can cause serious health issues. This is also often of great concern on farms, where the home and workplace may not be separated.

According to a study by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), researchers found cases of home contamination in 28 countries and 36 states in the U.S over a number of materials, industries, and occupations.

Carcinogens and Other Harmful Substances

There are a number of hazardous substances that can contaminate a home via clothing, physical contact, tools, and other means. Even washers and dryers used to clean work clothes can become contaminated and spread the substance to other clothing.

One example of such a substance is asbestos, which is easily carried home on clothing in the form of dust. The only known cause of mesothelioma, asbestos is a mineral whose fibers can be breathed in when they are disturbed (such as during renovations and demolitions), leading to cancerous growths in the lungs and other organs. Asbestos is still not banned in the U.S., and has contaminated workers’ homes on a global scale, leading to 100 reported deaths from mesothelioma in the United States alone.

Other substances that have been reported to contaminate homes from a work site and cause serious health issues to family members include:

  • Beryllium
  • Lead
  • Pesticides
  • Mercury
  • Arsenic
  • Cadmium
  • Silica
  • Caustic farm products
  • Estrogenic substances
  • Allergens and asthmagens
  • Fibrous glass
  • Infectious agents

Preventing Contamination

Simply bringing clothing and other items home to clean them before they come in contact with your family is not often an effective solution, and may even cause more harm than good to you and your family, spreading the substances throughout your home. The effectiveness of decontamination depends on cleaning method, material, and what’s contaminated. For example, asbestos, lead, pesticides, and beryllium are extremely difficult to remove.

In order to keep yourself and your family safe, follow these best prevention practices:

  • Wear the required protective gear and handle/remove the gear according to regulations.
  • Reduce overall exposure by following proper safety procedures.
  • Store daily clothing away from work clothes/environment.
  • Change into new clothes before leaving work.
  • Do not take soiled work clothing, tools, equipment, etc. home.
  • Shower thoroughly before returning home.
  • Launder work clothes separately in commercial launders.
  • Don’t allow family to visit hazardous work locations.
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Written By Tonya Nelson Tonya Nelson

Tonya Nelson is an experienced writer and editor, who has published on a wide variety of topics, particularly in the health field. Her bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University sparked her curiosity for writing stories about environmental and medical issues. As the Managing Editor, Tonya oversees the content development process, ensuring every article and informational page published adheres to MAA Center’s editorial guidelines.