Liver injury as a result of industrial toxins

Several of the chemicals used in industry, agriculture, and in the home have the potential to cause liver damage. In the chemical industry, vinyl chloride (among others) is harmful. It is used for PVC production. Dioxins have become known as a result of the Seveso disaster. Farmers are exposed to pesticides, insecticides and fungicides, some of which can lead to liver damage. These include halogenated aliphatic hydrocarbons, cadmium and dimethylnitrosamine. Some toxins do not poison the liver, but rather damage the brain, heart or other organs.

The agents a person is exposed to depends on their occupation. For example, winemakers have a health risk because of the use of arsenic.

There are no figures on the frequency of liver injury due to industrial toxins.


When handling chemicals, information should be obtained from the employer and appropriate protective measures taken. Care must be taken when using turpentine substitute, petroleum, adhesives, varnishes and paints at home.

If liver damage due to industrial toxins is suspected, the person concerned should seek medical advice. If this suspicion is confirmed, the cantonal industry and commercial inspectorate should be notified.


The most important action to take in the event of liver damage is to avoid the toxins (changing the area of work, if possible) or to reduce the strain on the liver, whether by reducing one's workload or taking adequate protective measures. With these precautions, further liver damage can be limited and, if possible, avoided. Existing damage to the liver cannot be cured with medications. A healthy lifestyle supports a possible regeneration, which occurs in some cases. If complications arise in connection with the liver damage, these can be treated with medication. If the situation is life-threatening, a liver transplant remains a possibility.