|Your Health and Safety at Work: A Collection of Modules - Your Body at Work (ILO, 1996, 40 p.)|
|II. Routes of entry|
Hazardous agents can also get into the body by ingestion.
How do you ingest hazardous agents?
Ingestion happens when a hazardous agent is swallowed. Some ingested agents pass into the digestive system where they can be destroyed or neutralized by the acid in the stomach. However, some can be absorbed very quickly into the bloodstream through the walls of the stomach and small intestines. Once in the bloodstream, they can travel to different target organs (such as the kidneys and liver) where they can have damaging effects.
Workers can swallow hazardous agents by accident if they do not wash their hands before eating, drinking or smoking at work, or if they keep their food, drink and cigarettes in a contaminated (dirty) area. Eliminating hazardous chemical and biological agents is the best way to prevent ingestion. Other important methods of prevention are personal hygiene (cleanliness), and ensuring that workers have access to washing facilities, food storage and eating areas that are away from their work areas. It is also important that workers are educated about the importance of personal hygiene, and storing and eating food away from work areas.
Can the body remove ingested hazardous agents?
Vomiting and diarrhoea are ways in which the body tries to remove certain toxic substances from the digestive system. However, these response mechanisms cannot remove all ingested hazardous agents from the body. Vomiting and diarrhoea can be signals of ingestion of chemical and biological agents and must be investigated.
Points to remember about ingestion
1. Hazardous agents can enter the body by being ingested (swallowed).
2. Some ingested hazardous agents are neutralized in the stomach, while others are absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to target organs.
3. Eliminating hazardous agents is the best method of preventing their ingestion. Other important methods of prevention are personal hygiene and ensuring workers have access to washing facilities, food storage and eating areas that are away from their work areas.
4. Vomiting and diarrhoea are ways the body tries to remove certain toxic substances from the digestive system.
5. Toxic materials may enter the body by more than one route, so be familiar with all routes of entry to prevent exposures.