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Ask an expert: What are adverse effects of chemical exposure?

Dr. Stephanie Miles-Richardson is an environmental health scientist in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Stephanie Miles-Richardson is an environmental health scientist in Atlanta, Georgia  

October 24, 2000
Web posted at: 12:33 PM EDT (1633 GMT)

Question: What are some adverse effects from chemical exposure?

Answer: Under certain exposure conditions, chemicals can cause a variety of adverse health effects. Some chemicals are carcinogens, which cause or promote cancer (i.e., benzene); irritants (i.e., ammonia), which cause inflammation of the skin and mucous membranes; and asphyxiants (i.e., carbon monoxide), which displace oxygen in the tissue.

Some chemicals are hepatotoxins (i.e., carbon tetrachloride), which damage the liver; nephrotoxins (i.e., heavy metals), which damage the kidney; neurotoxins, which damage the nervous system; or hematopoietic toxins, which adversely affect the blood cells and bone marrow. Other chemicals act as sensitizers and cause allergic reactions ranging from dermatitis to anaphylactic shock (life-threatening loss of blood pressure).

Dr. Stephanie Miles-Richardson is a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service and is stationed at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in Atlanta, Georgia. She is an environmental health scientist in the research implementation branch of the toxicology division.

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