Is your workplace slowly killing you?

Take a look at our chemical top trumps

author image - oliviah

By Oliviah Rix-Taylor

on Tuesday 3 July 2018

lethal subtances

Is your workplace slowly killing you?

Most of us would probably agree with that statement, daily grind and all that jazz, but there are some deadly jobs that involve poisonous substances that could be slowly killing you.

We’ve all heard of the sneaky, silent killer – Asbesssstos – but have you heard of methyl ethyl ketone? And no, it’s not a new death metal band.

Other lethal substances you might be exposed to in work include; lead, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, Acrylonitrile and hydrogen sulphide. They may all sound too exotic to be part of your work environment but they could be lurking closer than you think, particularly if you work in these industries;




Old buildings don’t just pose the threat of ghosts and drafty windows – they could harbour Asbestos in their walls as well as that death metal band ‘methyl ethyl ketone’ in the paint. Old buildings may also still retain elements of lead which can be absorbed by inhalation of fumes, dust and vapours.

So who are these silent killers hiding stealthily behind the office photocopier, and why are they so dangerous? Time to meet the gang, they’re a charming lot really.

Carbon monoxide  

Lethal rating: 95

Stealth: 100

Time till death: minutes- hours

Safety precaution: high

Carbon Monoxide likes to keep a low profile, odourless, colourless and tasteless, this deadly compound will start you off with a nice little headache which quickly develops into dizziness & nausea before slipping you into a coma and eventually death.

Blocked chimneys, exhausts and burning fuel all produce high levels of carbon monoxide, so if you work in transportation or, possibly as a chimney sweep, then you will want to bear this one in mind.



Lethal rating: 85

Stealth: 50

Time till death: years

Safety precaution: high

Asbestos was used abundantly in electrical insulation, hot plating and building and construction a decade ago but has since been found to be highly carcinogenic. When the fibres of asbestos break down (and they easily do) they can be inhaled into the lungs where the fibres sharp crystalline structures permanently damage the soft pleural linings of the lungs.

Asbestos can cause pleural plaques, pleural thickening and an aggressive and typically fatal form of cancer known as Mesothelioma.

Asbestos has to be removed by specialist companies if it is found in a building, usually during its demolition, or through inspections. It is no longer allowed to be used as a building insulator but it can still be found in old buildings where its degradation could cause inhalable fibres.



Lethal rating: 85

Stealth: 50

Time till death: minutes- years

Safety precaution: high

People working in industrial process are most at risk to lead poisoning whilst performing tasks like blast removal of old lead paint, removing lead from scrap waste, spraying certain vehicles and manufacturing glasses that are leaded.

Lead can subtly alter your body such as changing your blood to make you anaemic, affecting your nervous system and your fertility levels.  Not one to be dismissed lightly.


Methyl ethyl ketone

Lethal rating: 85

Stealth: 50

Time till death: months- years

Safety precaution: high

Otherwise known as Butanone, this sweet-smelling compound is commonly used as an industrial solvent. Although it is colourless it purportedly has a distinct odour akin to butterscotch! Please don’t ever be tempted to drink it though because Butanone will most certainly kill you.

Used mainly as a solvent and in the manufacture of plastics, methyl ethyl ketone is flammable and can produce small explosions…yikes.

It is classed as an irritant and can cause tightness in the chest, dizziness, nausea, slurred speech and coma.

People working in manufacturing plants should be wary of this substance.



Lethal rating: 92

Stealth: 85

Time till death: minutes / hours/ years (dose dependent)

Safety precautions: high

Officially used in the manufacture of important plastics, this compound is colourless and highly volatile (a bit like me in the winter). Even in low doses, Acrylonitrile is highly toxic and workers exposed to high levels are diagnosed more frequently with lung cancer.

Repeated and continuous exposure can cause damage to the liver and central nervous system.

Immediate side effects include eye irritation and skin irritations.

Inhalation can occur via exhaust fumes so if you work around cars in a mechanics or engineering – this is the guy to look out for


Think you might have been exposed to harmful substances in the workplace? First of all, please seek medical attention! Secondly, we can help you claim compensation. Call Accident Line Direct today for a compensation guide 

0808 1454275

Accident Line Direct can help you begin your potential claim, get in touch today!