Acute Exposure

Last Updated: June 20, 2018

Definition - What does Acute Exposure mean?

Acute exposure is a term used to define the duration or severity of an exposure to a hazardous agent. An acute exposure usually refers to single incident of exposure that is short in duration with effects that are immediate and severe. For example, an acute exposure to a corrosive acid would cause immediate harm.

However, not all agencies include harm in the definition. In some instances, an organization may include exposures that do not cause severe harm in the acute category based solely on their duration. However, the term is most often used to refer to both short-term exposure and severe biological harm to the person exposed.

WorkplaceTesting explains Acute Exposure

The term acute exposure is used to differentiate short-term exposures to a hazardous agent from ongoing, or chronic exposures. An exact time frame to distinguish the two terms has not been agreed to by the various agencies and industries that make use of the terms.

However, some organizations define an acute exposure as one that lasts for less than a day. Other agencies apply a longer time frame. In comparison, chronic exposures occurs repeatedly over time, sometimes for a year or longer. For example, when defining radiation exposures, a single X-ray would be categorized as an acute exposure. Radiation from contaminated soil near a home would cause the residents to suffer chronic exposure.

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