“Organic” Isn’t Necessarily Good For You

Organic paint and solvents that cause hearing loss.

Sometimes it’s easy to recognize hazards to your ears: the roaring jet engine beside your ears or the bellowing machinery on the floor of a factory. When the dangers are intuitive and logical, it’s easy to convince people to take pragmatic solutions (which commonly include wearing earmuffs or earplugs). But what if there was an organic compound that was just as bad for your hearing as too much noise? After all, just because something is organic, doesn’t that necessarily mean it’s good for you? How can something that’s organic be equally as bad for your ears as loud noise?

An Organic Compound You Don’t Want to Eat

To be clear, we’re not talking about organic things like produce or other food products. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, there’s a good possibility that a collection of chemicals known as organic solvents can harm your hearing even if exposure is minimal and brief. To be certain, the sort of organic label you see on fruit in the supermarket is totally different. Actually, marketers use the positive connections we have with the word “organic” to sell us products with the implication it’s actually good for you (or at the very least not bad for you). When food is labeled as organic, it means that specific growing practices are used to keep food free of artificial impurities. When we talk about organic solvents, the word organic is chemistry-related. Within the discipline of chemistry, the term organic refers to any compounds and chemicals that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can generate a high number of molecules and therefore practical chemicals. But at times they can also be hazardous. Every year, millions of workers are exposed to the risks of hearing loss by working with organic solvents.

Organic Solvents, Where do You Find Them?

Organic solvents are found in some of the following products:

  • Degreasing agents
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Varnishes and paints
  • Adhesives and glue

You get the idea. So, the question suddenly becomes, will your hearing be damaged by cleaning or painting?

Hazard Associated With Organic Solvents

The more you’re exposed to these substances, according to current research, the higher the associated hazard. This means that you’ll most likely be fine while you clean your kitchen. It’s the industrial workers who are continuously exposed to organic solvents that have the highest danger. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been demonstrated to be linked to subjection to organic substances. This has been demonstrated both in laboratory experiments involving animals and in experiential surveys involving real people. Loss of hearing in the mid frequency range can be affected when the little hair cells of the ear are damaged by solvents. The issue is that a lot of businesses are not aware of the ototoxicity of these compounds. These hazards are even less recognized by workers. So those employees don’t have standardized protocols to protect them. One thing that may really help, for instance, would be standardized hearing examinations for all workers who handle organic solvents on a consistent basis. These workers would be able to get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be detected in its beginning stages.

You Need to go to Work

Routine Hearing examinations and limiting your exposure to these solvents are the most frequent recommendations. But if you want that recommendation to be practical, you have to be mindful of the hazards first. It’s easy when the risks are plain to see. It’s obvious that you should take safeguards to protect against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud noises. But it’s not so easy to convince employers to take safety measures when there is an invisible hazard. Luckily, continuing research is assisting both employees and employers take a safer approach. For now, it’s a good idea to only use these products in a well-ventilated place and to always wear a mask. Having your ears checked by a hearing expert is also a good idea.

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