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HANDLE WITH CARE

In the construction industry, working with concrete is a given. Workers familiar with the risks know how important it is to take safety precautions. This means wearing protective clothing, footwear and eyewear. At the least, coming into contact with wet cement or concrete (which contains cement) can create allergic contact dermatitis; in a worst-case scenario, there’s the potential of incurring third-degree burns, which can be life-threatening if not treated immediately.

For the weekend home-improvement ace, the danger might be even greater, because the average non-professional isn’t aware – or underestimates – the damage that cement and concrete can do to your skin. Patching a concrete walkway or building a simple planter box can quickly become a medical emergency.

Cautionary Tale

Ryan, a former paramedic, skilled cabinet maker, and home project expert in Denver, learned his lesson the hard way. Bricking a simple garden wall with mortar (cement mixed with water), he knew enough to wear goggles and a long-sleeved shirt. His gloves had a few small holes in the finger tips, but he wasn’t concerned. After completing the small project, he experienced burning in his fingers that grew worse by the hour. He didn’t know that wet cement continues burning and damaging tissue that has come into contact with it. He had multiple third-degree burns on both hands, burns that took weeks to heal.

Cement is a powdery substance made with calcined lime and clay (heated at a high temperature to create a dry substance). “Portland” cement is what is usually used in concrete today, and a key ingredient. Mixed with water, Portland cement becomes a toxic chemical mixture that contains lime, calcium hydroxide, hexavalent chromium and trace amounts of crystalline silica (which also can damage lungs). It is very alkaline, with a pH of 12 to 13 (on a scale of 1 to 14); human skin has a pH of approximately 5. According to OSHA, “wet Portland cement can damage the skin because it is caustic, abrasive, and absorbs moisture.”

Whether you’re a professional who regularly works with concrete and cement, or an amateur home-improver, always take safety precautions to limit your exposure, and know what to do if it comes in contact with your skin. Your good intentions in wearing full-coverage clothing can actually work against you; wet concrete can seep through knee pads, gloves or boots. Be vigilant in checking that you remain dry at all times. If your skin or eyes become affected, rinse repeatedly with cool, clean water and seek medical treatment immediately.

Be safe out there, and remember that Ace Cutting, Inc. has premium, American-made concrete tools and supplies for your small, medium and large projects, indoor or outdoor. Call us at 888-283-2597 or visit our website – acecutting.com.