Chemicals from your work can come home on your skin, hair, clothes and shoes. When you go home, these chemicals can get onto your floors, your furniture, or in your car where your family members or pets can be exposed. We call this take-home exposure.
Some of these chemicals might be dangerous, especially for children. Here is some information on how chemicals get into your home and how you can prevent this from happening.
What we know
• A lot of different chemicals are accidentally brought home from work and can make family members sick. These include lead, pesticides, beryllium, and asbestos.
• Take-home exposures might be particularly dangerous to young children because children are small, spend lots of time on the floor, tend to put things in their mouths, and their bodies are still growing and developing.
• Lead is a chemical that is commonly brought into the home and it can be very dangerous. Lead harms children’s brains and can also be harmful to pregnant women, because it can affect the unborn baby. People who work with lead include construction workers, painters, home renovators, and battery or electronics recyclers.
What we don’t know
Some chemicals are harmful to both adults and children, but many chemicals have not been tested for safety in children. If you work with chemicals, the safest thing to do is to make sure you don’t take these chemicals home with you.
Who you can talk to
• Talk to your employer or your company’s safety officer about how all workers can avoid bringing chemicals home with them.
• Talk to your doctor about the types of chemicals in your workplace. Ask if these chemicals are harmful to your family members and how you can avoid bringing them home with you.
• Talk to your household members about what chemicals they work with. Explain that it is important to avoid bringing these chemicals home with them, because some might be dangerous, especially for children.
What you can do to prevent take-home exposures
• The best way to keep chemicals out of your home is to keep them from leaving work:
o Wear protective clothing at work so that chemicals do not get on your clothes.
o Change your clothes and shoes before leaving work.
o Keep your dirty work clothes and shoes separate from your clean clothes (for example, store them in separate lockers).
o Wash contaminants off. If your workplace has a shower, take a shower before leaving work. Otherwise, wash your hands before you leave.
• If you can’t change clothes or shower at work, reduce the amount of chemicals that enter your home:
o Take off your work shoes in your garage or as soon as you enter your home, so you don’t bring chemicals any further in.
o Change out of your work clothes right away. Wash your work clothes right away if you can.
o Wash your work clothes in a different load of laundry from your family’s clothes. This keeps chemicals on your clothes from getting on theirs.
o Wash your hands or shower as soon as you get home.
• If other people in your household work, ask them to help prevent take-home exposure from their work, too.