4 Toxic Chemicals to Avoid With Hepatitis C

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Your healthy liver is tasked with breaking down toxins and eliminating them from your body.

If you are one of the 3.2 million people with hepatitis C, your liver may not always be up to this important task. This is why it’s so important to steer clear of toxic chemicals that can harm your already stressed liver. Such toxins can be found at home or at work and can enter your body through the skin, mouth or nose.

Here are the four types of offenders, where they are found, and why you need to take measures to avoid them whenever possible.

Cigarette Smoke

You know it is linked to lung cancer and heart disease, but cigarette smoke and the toxins it contains can also increase the chances that your hepatitis C will progress toward liver cancer. Talk to your doctor about quitting today if you smoke, and be serious about taking measures to avoid exposure to second-hand smoke.


Drinking too much alcohol has been shown to increase risk of liver cirrhosis (scarring) among people with hepatitis C. Some research has also suggested that even light or moderate alcohol consumption can be harmful to the liver if you have hepatitis C. Start a candid conversation with your doctor about how much alcohol you consume on a regular basis.

On-the-Job Exposures

Certain jobs involve exposure to industrial toxins or solvents that can be harmful to your liver. For example, dry cleaners may work with tetrachloroethylene, a colorless liquid that can damage the liver if inhaled. Toulene, a solvent found in paints, printing materials and even nail polish, can also be toxic to your liver if breathed in or absorbed via your skin on a regular basis in the presence of hepatitis C. You have a right to know about all workplace hazards, so don’t hesitate to ask questions. Other at-risk occupations may include chemists, farm workers, healthcare workers, nurses, and beauticians. If you can’t quit your job, wear gloves and/or masks, and always work in a well-ventilated room with the windows wide open and exhaust fans on.

At-Home Exposures

Hair sprays, cleaning products, bug sprays, disinfectants, stain removers, bathroom cleaners, furniture polish, and air fresheners among other commonly used products can contain a laundry list of potentially toxic chemicals. Always use gentle, green cleaning products when you can and wear masks, gloves and keep windows open when you can’t.

If you are at all concerned about how exposure to any chemical is affecting your liver, ask your doctor what he or she knows to make sure you are doing all that you can to protect this all-important organ.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Apr 25

  1. Trimble G, et al Mortality associated with alcohol-related liver disease. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 2013 Sep;38(6):596-602. doi: 10.1111/apt.12432. Epub 2013 Jul 29.

  2. Trimble G, et al. Toxic hepatitis in occupational exposure to solvents. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2012 Jun 14; 18(22): 2756–2766. Published online 2012 Jun 14. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v18.i22.2756

  3. Hep C General Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control. http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HCV/PDFs/HepCGeneralFactSheet.pdf

  4. Counseling for Liver Health. University of Washington. http://www.hepatitisc.uw.edu/go/evaluation-staging-monitoring/counseling-liver-health/core-concept/

  5. Liver. Project Inform. http://www.projectinform.org/publications/liver/

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