“Organic” Isn’t Always Good For You

Organic paint and solvents that cause hearing loss.

Sometimes it can be easy to recognize dangers to your ears: loud machinery or a roaring jet engine. easy to persuade people to use ear protection when they know they will be around loud noises. But what if there was an organic substance that was as bad for your ears as excessive noise? Just because something is organic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy for you. How can something that’s organic be equally as bad for your ears as loud noise?

An Organic Substance You Wouldn’t Want to Eat

To clarify, these organic substances are not something you can pick up at the produce department of your grocery store and you wouldn’t want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, there’s a good possibility that a group of chemicals known as organic solvents can damage your hearing even if exposure is limited and minimal. It’s important to note that, in this case, organic doesn’t refer to the kind of label you see on fruit in the grocery store. In reality, the word “organic” is utilized by marketers to make consumers believe a product is good for them. When food is labeled as organic, it means that particular growing methods are used to keep food free of artificial impurities. The term organic, when associated with solvents, is a term used in chemistry. Within the discipline of chemistry, the word organic describes any chemicals and compounds that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon atoms can create all varieties of distinctive molecules and, consequently, a wide variety of different useful chemicals. But sometimes they can also be harmful. Each year, millions of workers are exposed to the hazards of hearing loss by working with organic solvents.

Where do You Come Across Organic Solvents?

Organic solvents are found in some of the following products:

  • Degreasing agents
  • Paints and varnishes
  • Glues and adhesives
  • Cleaning products

You get it. So, the question suddenly becomes, will painting (or even cleaning) your living room harm your hearing?

Dangers Related to Organic Solvents

Based on the most current research available, the risks associated with organic solvents generally increase the more you’re exposed to them. So when you clean your home you will most likely be okay. The biggest risk is to people with the most prolonged contact, in other words, factory workers who produce or use organic solvents on an industrial scale. Industrial solvents, in particular, have been well studied and definitively reveal that exposure can result in ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). This has been demonstrated both in lab experiments involving animals and in experiential surveys with actual people. Exposure to the solvents can have a detrimental effect on the outer hair cells of the ear, leading to hearing loss in the mid-frequency range. Regretfully, the ototoxicity of these solvents isn’t well known by company owners. These risks are even less recognized by workers. So there are an absence of standardized protocols to safeguard the hearing of those workers. All workers who deal with solvents could get hearing screenings regularly and that would really help. These hearing tests would detect the very earliest indications of hearing loss, and workers could react accordingly.

You Have to go to Work

Most guidelines for protecting your hearing from these particular organic substances include managing your exposure as well as routine hearing tests. But first, you have to be conscious of the risks before you can heed that advice. When the hazards are obvious, it’s not that hard. Everyone recognizes that loud noises can damage your ears and so taking steps to protect your hearing from day-to-day sounds of the factory floor seems obvious and logical. But it isn’t so easy to convince employers to take safety measures when there is an invisible threat. Fortunately, as specialists raise more alarms, employers and employees alike are beginning to make their workplaces a little bit safer for everyone. In the meantime, it’s a smart idea to only work with these products in a well-ventilated place and to always use a mask. Having your ears evaluated by a hearing care professional is also a practical idea.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.