Concrete Poisoning – Meaning, Symptoms, Treatments, & Prevention

Blog, Construction

Concrete is a top-rated product for construction. It is used for buildings, bridges, sidewalks, parking garages, roads, etc. But as useful as concrete can be, it can also be hazardous. It is very important to know the symptoms and treatment of concrete poisoning.

Concrete poisoning can occur either from direct contact, inhalation, or ingestion. The symptoms include; burn, irritation, wheezing sound while breathing, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, etc.

In this article, I will outline the three main ways concrete poisoning occurs, the symptoms, treatments, and preventive methods to take when working with concrete.

What is concrete poisoning?

Concrete poisoning also called concrete chemical burns, is a reaction caused mainly by the high alkaline calcium hydroxide levels in concrete. It causes major issues when it comes in contact with the skin and the internal organ when ingested.

How does concrete poisoning occur?

There are three main ways through which concrete poisoning occurs, they include;

1. Direct skin contact

Typically, when working with concrete, wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) is customary. But the fact is that it doesn’t always guarantee safety.

It is not unheard of for concret to be trapped inside the glove or boot. Also, there have been cases of accidental splash during concrete mixture. The concrete can remain on the cloth, soaking through it till it gets to your skin.

2. Inhalation

There are many compounds in concrete; some are harmful, and some aren’t. Some examples of harmful compounds in concrete are alkaline calcium oxide and trace amounts of silica.

When the concrete is poured, these harmful compound causes toxic dust to accumulate in the air. When you inhale this toxic dust, the alkaline calcium oxide spreads to different parts of your body, especially your lungs.

The alkaline calcium oxide then reacts with moisture in your body, forming corrosive calcium hydroxide. The silica also is known to lead to a disease called silicosis which occurs when you are repeatedly exposed to that compound.

3. Ingestion

The final medium through which one can get concrete poisoning is ingestion. When I say ingestion, I am not implying that one would eat concrete purposefully.

Accidental ingestion is often by eating or drinking in concrete dust. It leaves the food open to contamination from the harmful compounds in the air.

Once ingested, the harmful compounds are deposited in the digestive system. The concrete will begin to absorb water from the surrounding tissues. In addition to that, it can erode the intestinal walls, which can harden and cause gastric blockage.

What are the symptoms of concrete poisoning?

Concrete poisoning is no child’s play and can be fatal if not detected early. Some of the symptoms include the following;

  • Drooling
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Wheezing sound while breathing
  • Severe abdominal pains
  • Vomiting
  • Burns
  • Irritation
  • Deep wound on the skin
  • Difficulty breathing (sometimes associated with throat irritation or swelling)
  • Bloody stool

What are the treatment options for concrete poisoning?

You may have suffered from concrete poisoning if you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms. Below are the standard treatment options for concrete poisoning.

1. First aid treatment

Immediately you notice any of the above symptoms, quickly inspect your body to determine the entry point. If you see it on your skin, promptly wash the spot with cold or room-temperature water for at least 15 minutes.

Next, add some diluted vinegar to the affected area to neutralize the concrete. Vinegar is acidic, and concrete is alkaline-based, so it is best to neutralize it with vinegar or any other acidic substance like citrus juice.

2. Medications

Usually, concrete poisoning comes with a lot of discomfort and pain. Taking medications would help ease the pain while also preventing further damage.

Common medications for concrete poisoning include;

  • Antihistamines (to help with allergies)
  • Corticosteroids and antibiotics (to help prevent further infections)
  • Pain medication for severe burns

When to see a doctor

Seek medical attention if;

  • the affected area is larger than 3 inches across
  • burn causes a lot of pain that seems too much to handle
  • affected area is on your face or genitals
  • it is a case of ingestion
  • it is a case of inhalation

How can you prevent concrete poisoning?

The general advice is to avoid concrete and leave it to the professional. But, even professionals have to take preventive measures, or else they may suffer from concrete poisoning.

Below are some safety precautions to take;

  • Always wear complete personal protective equipment (PPE) when working with concrete. This includes; gloves, long-sleeved overalls, boots, respiratory gear, and trousers.
  • Mix the concrete in a well-ventilated environment
  • Wear the proper eye protection when mixing or pouring concrete
  • If there is an accidental spill of concrete on your cloth, immediately take it off and wash off the affected area
  • Do not wash hands or clothes in any water that was previously used to wash construction tools


Can concrete poisoning kill you?

Yes, it can. If not attended to quickly, it may affect essential organs in the body and lead to death.

Is it OK to touch wet concrete?

Brief exposure or contact is unlikely to cause any damage. However, it is better to avoid touching wet concrete unnecessarily. And if you happen to, wash your hand immediately.

Wrapping things up – Prevention is key

Concrete is very toxic; just a little on your skin for a few hours can be dangerous. It sucks the moisture out of your skin, eventually affecting the tissues underneath.

Common symptoms include burns, drooling, vomiting, swelling, etc. If you notice any concrete poisoning symptoms, quickly identify the entry point and act quickly.

If the entry point is on the skin, quickly wash the spot with water for 15 minutes or more. And if the concrete poisoning occurred due to inhalation or ingestion, it is best to seek medical attention immediately.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article; if you did, see more interesting articles on Samkinsconstruction today.

Thanks for reading.

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