Online Program

A lay person's guide to toxic chemicals

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 3:30 p.m. - 3:50 p.m.

Todd Jailer, Hesperian Health Guides, berkeley, CA
Learning about chemicals, how they affect the body, and how to protect against them are important tools to reduce and prevent chemical exposures in the workplace. For many workers in export factories around the world, knowing about and being protected from chemical exposure is difficult to achieve.

We began developing a chemical resource as an appendix for the book A Workers' Guide to Health and Safety. While field testing early drafts of the Chemical Hazard chapter, reviewers (which included workers, organizers, and other experts) prioritized presentation of chemical information in different ways – focus on health effects rather than the chemical itself and, more generally, conciseness versus comprehensiveness. As we delved into the various sources for chemical information (company, government, nonprofit MSDS and online chemical search engines) we realized how difficult it was for lay people to understand and distill information from these sources.

With the help of toxicologists, chemists, OSH and environmental professionals, and workers and organizers in the field, we developed a Toxic Chemical Resource Guide. Because chemicals in manufacturing often change, we decided to organize charts by chemical families. The charts include four main types of information: identification of the chemical, acute and chronic effects, control and treatment measures, and some possible safer substitutes.

Initial feedback from field-testers indicates that both content and structure were well received. Through this experience, we hope to share what we have learned in the development of presenting technically complex information in a simple way in order to benefit the maximum amount of people.

Learning Areas:

Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
Describe how a worker-centered chemical chart is developed from concept to publication.

Keyword(s): Workplace Safety, Occupational Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a primary author developing a resource for workers that demystifies information, validates workers’ knowledge and experience, and motivates them and others in the workplace to take action, individually and collectively, to improve their work and community lives. I joined a labor and human rights collective that supported factory workers fighting for fair and safe working conditions while working for a broad-based coalition to build the first women's crisis center in the region.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.