Lead, Mercury, Cytotoxic Drugs, Carbon Monoxide

  • Lead, Mercury, Cytotoxic Drugs, Carbon Monoxide

Lead and lead derivatives

Potential risks
High exposure to lead is associated with increased frequency of spontaneous abortion, stillbirths and infertility. Lead can also enter breast milk and may adversely affect the nervous system of young children.

Control measures
There are specific regulations for control of exposure to lead and these set both airborne levels and blood lead levels. The latter are lower for women of reproductive capacity. When pregnancy is confirmed significant exposures to lead should be avoided.

There are unlikely to be any processes which give rise to a significant risk. However, a COSHH risk assessment should be carried out and if such assessment raises concern about significant absorption, Occupational Health must be contacted for further advice.

Mercury and mercury derivatives

Potential risks
There is evidence that organic mercury compounds may have adverse effects on the foetus. It is also advisable to avoid exposure to mercury and inorganic mercury compounds.

Control measures
Compliance with HSE Guidance Note EH17: Mercury – Health and Safety precautions.

Cytotoxic Drugs

Potential risks
In the long term these drugs cause damage to genetic information in sperm and eggs. Some can cause cancer. Absorption is by inhalation or through the skin. These substances are exempt from the normal labelling requirements because they are drugs. Those who are trying to conceive a child, are pregnant or breast feeding should avoid exposure to such materials.

Control measures
Compliance with HSE Information Sheet MISC615: Safe handling of cytotoxic drugs.

Carbon monoxide

Potential risks
Carbon monoxide readily crosses the placenta and can result in the foetus being starved of oxygen. Pregnant women should avoid working in an atmosphere where there is a high concentration of carbon monoxide. High levels may be found in areas where internal combustion engines are run without adequate extract ventilation.

Control measures
Compliance with HSE Guidance Note EH43: Carbon monoxide.