Occupational exposure to floor wax

  1. I am curious to see how many people get sick from floor wax at work. I believe we need to take the time to speak up, having to breathe chemicals that cause people sickness from being at work is uncalled for. I went to the ER last night after working my nursing job because of the floor wax fumes. I was going about my normal day when my eyes started burning and watering to no end. I thought some of the lotion I was wearing had got rubbed into my eyes. I continued preparing for my Med pass. I proceeded to go to the west wing and pass my meds. I noticed a nasty smell of fumes and saw they were waxing. I knew when I saw that it was the cause of my irritated eyes. I had to continue Med pass as we were working bare minimum staff. As I breathed the fumes and worked in the area following the wax my eyes were blinking non stop from the irritation watering and burning as though I had poured rubbing alcohol into them. Following the eye irritation my nose started stuffing up and my chest began tightening. I continued working and grew nauseated, dizzy and developed a headache. After completing Med pass I contacted my on call supervisor to inform her that I don't seem to do well being expose to these fumes and that I was going to get treated as soon as I finished my documentation. I moved to the east side to work from the clinic computer to try and get away from the fumes. I still could smell them but not as strong. Employees in the clinic reported headaches as well as others breathing the fumes. Unfortunately, it took me until the end of my shift to complete everything. By the time I drove home my head felt funny and It was a similar feeling like when you drink too many glasses of wine. I noticed my reactions and thought process was slower than normal. Honestly I was scared to drive home but I had no one to drive me and I had to get home to my child. I drove with caution and made it home. My neighbor saw me and asked what was wrong I explained what happened at work and she pointed out my face was red as well as my chest and my eyes were puffy. I took some benedryl and ibuprofen waited two hours and it didn't help. I then sat and waited on my fiancé to get off work and take me to the ER. The MD questioned me called poison control, gave me a chest X-ray and sent me home with an inhaler and benedryl plus three days out of work. I am scared when I return the waxing will still be going on. I am posting this because nurses who are affected need to report this and band together. Something must be done to protect people who have these kinds of reactions to the floor care chemicals. My first exposure to floor wax made me very ill with respiratory effects that took a good three months to get over. I didn't report it or get checked out at that time. I worked in a nursing home during the first exposure and my respiratory compromised patients also had issues. We need to speak up so they will move these patients away from where the floor care is being done and so employers will schedule employees with this reaction to work the days floor care is not being done. Something has to give here nurses should never have to compromise their health because they want to go to work to help others. Everyone please speak up if you have suffered irritation to floor waxing and striping! For now I will sit on my couch and see if this albuterol inhaler, Ibuprofen and Benadryl make me better if not guess I will return to the ER my employer has me using. Thanks for reading and all who speak up!
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  2. Poll: Were you made ill from floor stripping and or waxing at work?

    • Respiratory, eyes and skin Symptoms

      85.71% 6
    • Headache

      42.86% 3
    • Nausea and GI upset

      14.29% 1
    • Other symptoms not listed

      0% 0
    • All of the above

      0% 0
    7 Votes / Multiple Choice
  3. 23 Comments

  4. by   meanmaryjean
    Please edit you post into readable paragraphs. You will get a lot more people reading it that way. I gave up about 5 lines in.
  5. by   Rose_Queen
    Quote from meanmaryjean
    Please edit you post into readable paragraphs. You will get a lot more people reading it that way. I gave up about 5 lines in.
    Not to mention the poll is very skewed in one direction. It's essentially a yes/no question where all of the answers are yes. What about those who don't have issues?
  6. by   soutthpaw
    Request the MSDS (Materials Data Safety Sheets) for wax, cleaner that the hospital/clinic/contractor or whatever is using. They are required to be available and provided to employees upon request. It should list the potential health effects including from inhaling vapors and advise the correct methods of using it, PPE etc. You could also be hypersensitive to something in one or more of the chemicals they use.

    MSDS on hand are an OSHA requirement, Nowadays, many companies have it all computerized and just download from some central database.
    Last edit by soutthpaw on Aug 20
  7. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Not even gonna try to read this. Paragraphs are your friend.
  8. by   Thanksforthedonuts
    Obviously, I agree with what everyone else said. Please write in paragraphs. I got a headache attempting to read your post. I

    I do not think you will get anyone to support your accusation of "occupational hazard to floor wax". Have you considered how minimal your exposure might be to other professions? What about people who install hardwood floor or people who paint for a living? Have you considered the exposure they have to toxic fumes? Probably 1000x more than what you are experiencing. I'm not ignoring your symptoms of what you felt... however I do feel you are being a bit tragic and over dramatic.
  9. by   meanmaryjean
    One post wonder
  10. by   JKL33
    It's very possible that you have a particular sensitivity. You should attempt to address this through correct channels. I knew someone who actually did have a very similar problem and the workplace created a plan of action to see that he wasn't exposed. It worked out just fine. You really don't need to rile up a group of people who are willing to exaggerate in order to make your case. Deal with it like an adult by telling your employer the effect it had on you (sans drama) and seeking a reasonable solution.

    That said, I do think it's a bit "entertaining" that some of that floor stuff can be rather noxious and irritating, while at the same time there is a disciplinary process in place for those who smell like smoke or perfume...or who make popcorn at work...etc.
  11. by   LovingLife123
    Back in my retail days, my company came up with this brilliant idea that we would wax our own floors. I spent many overnights stripping and waxing. I never had any type of reaction.

    You may just have some type of allergy. The answer is to wear a mask when you notice they are going to wax since you have an issue with it.
  12. by   JKL33
    And for the eye irritation?
  13. by   KRVRN
    I read your whole post and I don't have a headache. Paragraphs would have been nice but I can tell you are discussing a concern you have so I will respond rather than continuing to scroll by. I feel bad for you. It seems you have your symptoms documented. Perhaps your manager needs to plan with the housekeepers to wax when you aren't working or change your schedule? If patients are also having issues then perhaps they need to rethink their floor care strategy.
  14. by   CelticGoddess
    Quote from LovingLife123
    Back in my retail days, my company came up with this brilliant idea that we would wax our own floors. I spent many overnights stripping and waxing. I never had any type of reaction.

    You may just have some type of allergy. The answer is to wear a mask when you notice they are going to wax since you have an issue with it.
    No, the answer is NOT "wear a mask" First, most likely all you'll find is surgical masks and they do not stop the fumes from volatile chemicals from reaching the airways (and certainly not the eyes). And even if you have access to an N95, it isn't going to stop the fumes from reaching the airways.

    People who have chemical sensitivities can request a reasonable accommodation provided they have documentation. OP appears that she does. And quite frankly, if this issue is as severe for her as she says, I think she should request the accommodation.

    I have, in the past, had to request accommodation because of chemical sensitivity. What I have learned, sometimes you won't get the accommodation you need because it isn't possible (for example, using bleach to clean a room, or bleach wipes to clean equipment in a c-diff room. They aren't going to be able to stop that). However, my former unit did have to remove all the solid air fresheners, I was given time off when they painted the halls, and when they stripped and rewaxed the floors, I was also given time off (3 days). That is a reasonable accommodation.

    Telling someone to just wear a mask, is not reasonable for the person affected by the chemicals.
  15. by   amoLucia
    Quote from Thanksforthedonuts
    Obviously, I agree with what everyone else said. Please write in paragraphs. I got a headache attempting to read your post. I

    I do not think you will get anyone to support your accusation of "occupational hazard to floor wax". Have you considered how minimal your exposure might be to other professions? What about people who install hardwood floor or people who paint for a living? Have you considered the exposure they have to toxic fumes? Probably 1000x more than what you are experiencing. I'm not ignoring your symptoms of what you felt... however I do feel you are being a bit tragic and over dramatic.
    To OP - I feel for you!!! I too experienced extreme distress whenever they would strip & wax the floors. (You work LTC, right?)

    And to other non-believers, the physical response is very real! I'd experience inspiratory & expiratory wheezing and to use a inhaler. And the eyeburn was searing! Headache, nausea, ...

    Unfortunately, I would have to suffer thru most FIRST nites (no staff for emergency relief!) But the next nite or 2, I would call out sick. Sometimes the hskpg dept would post advance notice to the floors, so that would be a blessing. And I would occasionally ask them for advance warning because I would react.

    Over the years, it got worse & worse. On a scale of 1 - 10, I was prob an 8. The sad part is most admin didn't think it was much of a prob FOR THEM. But for folk like OP and myself, it most certainly was!!!

    If y'all remember, allergy to latex and gloves was not recognized for the loooongest time. I don't have the problem, but I don't minimize it for others. It's VERY REAL.

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