A health hazard is a substance that is capable of temporarily or permanently impairing or disrupting normal body functions. Health hazards include carcinogens, toxic agents, irritants, corrosives, sensitizers and agents that impair or damage the skin, eyes, mucous membranes and vital organs. A simplified example of the difference between the two would a fire in a chemical storage area. The fire or explosions would be considered a physical hazard while the toxic fumes in the smoke would be considered health hazard.
Health hazards are divided into two different types of exposures, acute exposures and chronic exposures.
Acute exposures are usually of a single exposure or several successive exposures in a short period resulting in relatively immediate, and often, an intense adverse effect. An exposure of this type will generally overwhelm the bodys ability to tolerate the presence of the hazardous substance in the body. An acute exposure presents an immediate risk to the health and safety of individuals and often requires an immediate response and/or medical attention.
Chronic exposures are the repeated exposures or the sustained exposure to a hazardous substance, often in low concentrations or amounts, over a long period. This type of exposure primary affects the body by the continual stressing or contaminating the organs and/or body functions to a point of impairment or breakdown. The adverse effects as of such exposures may have latency periods of years or decades.
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