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What are they?

Factories are facilities that use machines and equipment to make new products. They are also called plants or mills. 
Factories process food, produce textiles, and refine oil. They also make things like: 

  • Appliances
  • Chemicals
  • Clothing
  • Electronics
  • Medical equipment
  • Metals
  • Mineral products
  • Pesticides
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Plastics
  • Pulp and paper
  • Rubber 

See also: Ammonia Benzene Cadmium Carbon Dioxide Diesel Dioxins Ethylene Glycol Mercury Methane Methanol Nanoparticles Nitrogen Oxides Perchlorate Perchloroethylene (PCE, PERC) Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Solvents Styrene Sulfur Dioxide Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) Chlorine Lead Toluene Acetone Chromium Ozone Asbestos Particulate Matter Pesticides Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) Endocrine Disruptors Arsenic Bisphenol A (BPA) Ethylene Oxide Formaldehyde Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

Why are they a concern?

Many factories use chemicals that can harm humans. People can be exposed to these chemicals if they work at a factory. They can also be exposed if a factory releases chemicals into the air, land, or water. 

Safety concerns at factories include injuries from machinery, equipment, electrocution, and falls. Factory workers can also be exposed to pollution from vehicles and off-road vehicles while on the job.

Who is at risk?

  • People who work at a factory 
  • Nearby communities, if a factory releases chemicals into the air, land, or water

What pollutants are of greatest concern?

  • Sulfuric acid is used to produce fertilizers. When concentrated, it is potentially explosive. It can cause severe skin burns and other health problems when touched, swallowed, or inhaled.
  • Chlorine is naturally occurring and can be either a gas or a liquid. It is toxic in high concentrations, which occur mainly in industrial situations. It is used to produce plastics, pharmaceuticals, dyes, household cleaners, insecticides, and textiles.
  • Ammonia is used to produce fertilizers, household cleaners, and other chemicals and products. Exposure to extremely high levels of ammonia can cause severe health problems and even death.

Reduce your risk

  • Do you work at a factory?
  • Do you live near a factory?
  • Do you use well water?
  • If you work at a factory, follow all safety guidelines. 
  • Avoid outdoor activities near factories.
  • Avoid sources of water runoff near factories.
  • If you live near a factory and use well water, routinely test well water for chemical contamination.
  • If your well water has high levels of chemicals, contact your local or state health agency or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for information on how to reduce your exposure to these chemicals.
  • Do not let children play near factories.
National Library of Medicine Resources and Databases
  • Occupational Health
    Curated links to current consumer health information on occupational health. These English and Spanish web resources include background information, prevention and risk factors, related issues, specifics, statistics and research, clinical trials, journal articles, key terms, relevant agencies, targeted resources for women and seniors, and patient handouts.
  • Hazardous Substances Data Bank
    A toxicology database that focuses on the toxicology of potentially hazardous chemicals.
  • Haz-Map Occupational Health Info
    Occupational health database for health and safety professionals and consumers seeking information about the adverse health effects of workplace exposures to chemical and biological agents.
Additional Resources
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