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Bitumen has long been known by humans and has been used safely in various applications. Although bitumen is mainly used in road construction, it is also used in other applications such as prefabricated building waterproofing, tank lining and even domestic water pipe lining. If bitumen is properly processed and harvested, it has low biological risks. Only at elevated temperatures will the safety hazards of bitumen increase, which we will discuss further

Health aspects of Bitumen

Potential hazards of transport and application of hot bitumen include:

High temperatures: The main risk of bitumen is that it is raised too high during transportation, storage and process. Therefore, the use of personal protective equipment when handling bitumen is essential to avoid any skin contact with molten bitumen.

Vapor Emission: Bitumen is a complex mixture of hydrocarbons that boil over a wide range. Visible vapor emission usually starts at 150 ° C. For every 10 to 12 degrees the volume of vapor released doubles.
These vapors are mainly composed of hydrocarbons and slightly H2S. These two types of steam are highly susceptible, especially as H2S accumulates beneath the tank roof. This gas is very lethal at a very low concentration of 500 ppm and must be assured of its presence before entering such spaces. Bitumen vapors contain polycyclic aromatic compounds (PACs) whose dangers are described below.

Burning: The bitumen will burn at very high temperatures. Some materials, if hot enough, will burn in the air and are called extinguishers. The bitumen spontaneously ignites at about 400 ° C. However, bitumen tanks are rarely ignited. In the presence of a little oxygen, the H2S in the bitumen reacts with the iron surfaces of the reservoir and produces a flammable iron oxide material. It simply reacts with oxygen in the tank and ignites coke on the tank’s wall and ceiling. Coke sediments beneath the roof and on the wall of the reservoirs consist of bitumen compaction at these sites and destruction of coal material. At elevated temperatures and the presence of oxygen or a sudden increase in its amount, an exothermic reaction can occur that can result in a fire or explosion. For this reason, the entrances to the bitumen tanks should always be closed and the traffic on the tanks should be limited.

Contact with water: Hot bitumen should be avoided with water. The water turns into steam upon contact. In this situation, the volume of water is approximately 1400 times that of bitumen spraying and flooring, depending on the volume of hot bitumen weir

Dangers of Bitumen

The most common hazard associated with bitumen is the exposure to hot bitumen to the skin. During the very long time that bitumen has been used, there is no report of the risk of bitumen on the skin.

In the case of soluble bitumens and emulsions due to the lower temperatures used, the skin is more likely to be exposed to it and should be avoided.
In contact with soluble bitumen, they may penetrate the body through the skin. The presence of solvents in the body has carcinogenic effects. Contact with emulsions may irritate the skin and eyes and may cause sensitivity in some people.

First Aid: In case of burns, the burned area should be cooled down immediately. For this purpose, the skin of the burn site should be kept under cold water for 10 minutes. For eyes, at least 5 minutes should be 5 minutes in cold water. In all cases, the body should not be refrigerated. Avoid bitumen from the skin.

Medical Care: Bitumen adheres firmly to the skin and should only be removed in one well-equipped clinic.
The cooled bitumen forms a sterile, waterproof layer on the burn site and prevents drying. The bitumen can damage the skin and cause dryness and infections if burned. In the case of grade 2 burns, the bitumen should remain in place and covered with paraffin ointment such as flamazine (silver sulfadiazine). This method softens the bitumen and removes the bitumen after a day. In this case, the skin will not be restored and restored.
The bitumen crumbs gradually dissolve. In the event of a grade 3 burn, it should be surgically removed depending on the depth and location. It is best to remove the bitumen in the operating room 5 days after the burn. There will be no infections under these conditions.

If burns lead to an accidental bleeding, the bitumen acts as a barrier after cooling to prevent bleeding. The cooled bitumen should then be softened and removed to prevent blood flow obstruction. In case of hot bitumen, only an expert physician should check the patient’s condition and take appropriate action.

The hazards of working with hot bitumen are as follows. When bitumen and hot materials are mixed together, smoke is emitted. The smoke contains bitumen particles, hydrocarbon vapors, and small amounts of H2S. The permissible limits for bitumen smoke are 35 mg / m long-term (8 hours) and 300 mg / m short-term (10 minutes). Under standard operating conditions, the amount of exposure to these substances is below this limit.

The long-term exposure to H2S in the long-term (8 hours) is 10 ppm or 143 mg / m3 and in the short term (10 minutes) 15 ppm is 321 mg / m.

Exposure to bitumen smoke can cause eye irritation, nose and respiratory problems, headache and nausea. These effects are transient and resolve quickly. However, exposure to bitumen smoke should be minimized, although minor disturbances. First aid supplies must be delivered immediately to fresh air. If you do not recover quickly, you should see a specialist. Studies show that despite the presence of aromatic compounds in bitumen workers who are exposed to bitumen smoke have no health problems.

Lastly, everyone working with bitumen always has the necessary personal safety equipment and training on personal hygiene, bitumen firefighting, and how to remove bitumen from the environment.