MEK stands for methyl ethyl ketone, butanone-2 or methyl acetone. It’s a colourless liquid with a smell similar to acetone and is highly flammable. It’s used as an industrial solvent, often chosen for its quick evaporation. It’s commonly used in the production of paraffin wax, resins, paint thinner, varnishes, lacquers, printing inks, paints and glues. It’s also used in the manufacture of plastics, textiles and synthetic rubber.
MEK is harmful if inhaled or ingested or if it makes contact with skin and eyes. Symptoms of MEK Solvent poisoning when breathed in or swallowed:
Exposure to high levels of MEK can result in fainting and unconsciousness If drawn into the lungs, it can cause severe lung damage and possibly even result in death. MEK solvent can cause skin irritation.
High exposure over long periods of time can cause dermatitis or very dry, chapped and itchy skin. MEK can also cause eye irritation, either by direct contact with liquid MEK or through vapour in the air. The eyes can become red and sore but long-term damage is unlikely.
Chronic MEK exposure can damage the central nervous system and has been shown to impair memory but unfortunately, there have been few studies on the long-term effects of MEK exposure and some of the consequences may still be unknown.
It’s important that in any workplace where MEK is used makes its staff aware of the first aid procedures should any of its workers be exposed to MEK. It’s also been shown that MEK can worsen the neurotoxic effects of other chemicals that it’s often used in conjunction with such as methyl butyl ketone and n-hexane. These effects can include irreversible nerve damage – however, exposure to MEK alone does not produce these effects.
There are a number of safety measures that can be implemented to limit any exposure to MEK. MEK should be kept away from any heat or sources of ignition. Any vapour emissions should be avoided if possible. MEK should be stored and used in a cool, well-ventilated environment.
It’s the responsibility of an employer to ensure a safe working environment for their employees and must issue workers with any necessary safety clothing or equipment to protect them from harmful exposure to MEK.
If you have been exposed to MEK at work and suffered ill effects as a consequence of that exposure, you may be entitled to claim compensation. It must be provable that your exposure was the result of negligence on the part of your employer.
There are time limits imposed on how long afterwards you will be able to submit a claim, so it’s important to speak to a solicitor as soon as possible. Your solicitor will be able to advise you on the validity of your claim and what you need to do to do next. To find out more about how Cute Injury can help, get in touch...