Creosote Exposure and Health Effects
Creosotes including coal tar, coal tar pitch or coal tar pitch volatiles has been deemed extremely hazardous to human health. Side effects include kidney or liver disease, convulsions, chemical burns, cancer - and in some instances scrotum cancer. Laboratory studies conducted on animals found that even the smallest levels of exposure to wood creosote caused death.
The severe nature of exposure to creosote has marked it, as well as similar chemical byproducts including coal tar, coal tar pitch and coal tar pitch volatiles, as a deadly carcinogenic that can cause an array of diseases anywhere from liver and kidney disease to throat and stomach pain, depending on the type of exposure.
It has even been discovered that temporary exposure to large amounts of creosotes caused employee poisonings as well as increased their risk of side effects such as kidney and liver disease, seizures, skin irritation similar to chemical burns, rashes, mental disarray and death.
However, when an individual is exposed to lower levels of creosote over longer periods of time and direct skin contact occurs, the risk of skin damage similar to a severe sunburn as well as cornea damage are increased. Longer exposures to the vapors of the creosotes, coal tar, coal tar pitch, or coal tar pitch volatiles can also cause irritation of the respiratory tract.
Skin cancer and cancer of the scrotum have also resulted from long exposure to low levels of these chemical mixtures, especially through direct contact with the skin during wood treatment or manufacture of coal tar creosote-treated products, or in coke or natural gas factories.
Prolonged skin exposure to soot and coal tar creosote has been associated with cancer of the scrotum in chimney sweepers. In studies, rats and mice fed a large amount of wood creosote at one time had convulsions and died. Rats fed a smaller amount of wood creosote for a long period developed kidney and liver problems and died. Exposure to coal tar products through the skin has resulted in skin cancer in animals.
Laboratory animals that ate food containing coal tar developed cancer of the lungs, liver, and stomach, and animals exposed to coal tar in the air developed lung and skin cancer.
Coal tar and probably creosote have been classified as a carcinogenics to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also identified coal tar creosote as a probable human carcinogen.
Testing for Creosote Exposure
Unfortunately, no medical test can determine if a person has suffered exposure to wood creosote, coal tar creosote, coal tar, coal tar pitch mixtures, or coal tar pitch volatiles. Although, chemicals that exist in creosote can be detected and measured by medical physicians through body tissue, blood and urine tests. Typically, doctors perform such tests on employees who work with and are exposed to coal tar creosote, coal tar, and coal tar pitch to monitor their exposure.
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