When the quiet morning routine of Shepherd, Texas, was violently interrupted by a chemical plant…
Every year, thousands of people experience workplace chemical exposure. Without proper safety measures, employees run the risk of developing a number of different diseases that can change their lives forever. Workers have a right to protection from the dangerous chemicals they use on the job, and employers are responsible for keeping their employees safe. Unfortunately, many people are diagnosed with illnesses as a result of workplace chemical exposure.
How Do Chemicals Enter the Body?
It’s important to understand how chemicals can get into the body so that you know how to protect yourself. Chemicals can enter the body in several ways:
- Inhalation. A person can inhale chemicals through their mouth and nose, which is the most common way chemicals enter the body. The particles and vapors they inhale are usually invisible, which means people may not even know about the chemicals they breathe in.
- Skin contact. Toxic chemicals can also enter the body through contact with the skin. Small ducts in the skin, as well as any cuts, punctures, or scrapes act as openings to the body. This can damage the skin and infect the blood stream.
- Ingestion. People most often ingest, or swallow, chemicals by eating or drinking contaminated food and drinks. Chemicals are eventually carried into the blood stream as they move through the digestive system.
- Injection. Chemicals may sometimes enter the body through accidental injection. Although this is the least common way for toxic chemicals to get inside of the body, it can still happen in some places like hospitals.
What Kind of Injuries Does Workplace Chemical Exposure Cause?
Harmful chemicals in the workplace are responsible for a large number of chronic illnesses and deaths that doctors may be unable to trace. This is due to the symptoms showing up many years after the exposure. Other injuries workplace chemical exposure may cause include:
- Throat or lung injuries
- Nerve and brain injuries
What are Some Examples of Workplace Chemical Exposure Lawsuits?
People who work in agriculture are among those most likely to be exposed to toxic chemicals, particularly from herbicides. This includes farmers, gardeners, maintenance workers, and people who live near farms. Two ongoing lawsuits involving pesticides center on chemical exposure to paraquat and glyphosate.
Paraquat dichloride is a chemical used to kill and prevent weeds. Because it is toxic, people who handle paraquat must have a license. Although paraquat is a very effective herbicide, many workers have filed lawsuits against paraquat manufacturers like Syngenta. Multiple scientific studies have linked paraquat to Parkinson’s disease and other adverse effects. The claims against paraquat manufacturers allege that the companies knew of the risks that come with using the herbicide and failed to warn its customers.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that has no cure. It has a wide range of symptoms, including:
- difficulty with balance and walking
- loss of smell
- sleep disorders
Research shows that people who apply pesticides such as paraquat are twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than the general public.
Roundup is an herbicide used in household and commercial settings. Glyphosate, the active ingredient, is excellent for killing weeds. However, thousands of people have filed lawsuits against Roundup’s manufacturer Bayer Monsanto after users of Roundup were diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of cancer. The lawsuits allege that Monsanto covered up the risks of using Roundup, putting the lives of the people who use their product at risk.
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a type of cancer that starts in the lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that fights infections. Many studies have noted the link between glyphosate and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. However, experts have also linked Roundup to other types of cancer, such as leukemia, bone cancer, and B-cell Lymphoma.
Water contamination is a type of chemical exposure that can affect people everywhere, not just in the workplace. Military bases’ water sources around the country have been tainted with chemicals like PFAS, benzene, PCE, and vinyl chloride. Many chemicals can pollute water, making it unsafe to drink, cook, and bathe. Water contamination is a workplace issue that affects individuals whose work requires them to live in certain places.
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are known as “forever chemicals.” These man-made chemicals resist even the most advanced water treatments. Military bases across the country are known to be contaminated by PFAS, but that’s not the only place these forever chemicals are present. PFAS can be found in many sources, including food, household products, fire-fighting foams, industry jobs, water sources, and living organisms.
Because of the extremely strong chemical bond between carbon and fluorine atoms, PFAS doesn’t break down in the body. This often leads to many different kinds of health problems. Data from research shows links from PFAS to adverse health effects such as:
- different types of cancer
- immunological effects
- thyroid disruption
- raised cholesterol levels
- reproductive and developmental effects
Camp Lejeune is a Marine base located in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Like many other military bases, its water sources were contaminated for over 30 years by several chemicals, including PCE, vinyl chloride, TCE, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes. Underground storage tanks, industrial area spills, and wastewater disposal sites leaked these chemicals, and more, into the base’s water sources.
Due to exposure from the many chemicals in the water, people who lived at Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987 for more than 30 days may be able to get compensation for many health issues. These include:
- several types of cancer
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Hepatic Steatosis
Tiny dust particles from minerals are very dangerous due to the fact that people cannot see or feel them. When people breathe air that has particles like asbestos and silica in it, the dust can damage their lungs and other body parts. In many cases, people do not realize they have been exposed to any mineral particles until they develop an illness years later.
Asbestos refers to a group of six fibrous minerals that occur naturally in the environment. These minerals make great construction materials, as they are durable, good insulators, and fire-resistant. As a result, people often used asbestos in construction, insulation, and manufacturing for years before experts discovered its link to cancer. Today, employers have a responsibility to protect workers from asbestos exposure.
Asbestos is a carcinogen, and it’s one of the leading causes of mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the lungs, abdomen, and heart. Exposure to asbestos can also cause lung cancer and asbestosis. Most people don’t find out they have these diseases until 10-40 years after their exposure.
Crystalline silica is another type of mineral found in sand and rocks, including sandstone and granite. People may be exposed to the fine particles of silica dust in a number of industries, including sandblasting, mining, construction, masonry, and manufacturing. Silica exposure is a serious threat to around 2 million workers in the United States because breathing in the dust can lead to silicosis.
Also known as “sandblasting disease,” silicosis is part of a group of diseases called pneumoconiosis. Experts characterize the diseases in this group by fibrous scar tissue and nodules in the lungs. People with silicosis may have:
- trouble with breathing
- inflamed lungs
- severe shortness of breath
- low blood oxygen levels
Symptoms may appear anywhere from a few weeks to several years after silica exposure.
People can also inhale chemical vapors, which cause damage to the lungs and other parts of the body. In addition, vapors may be hard to detect since people can’t see, feel, or smell the dangerous chemicals floating in the air. Unfortunately, chemical vapors have the same ability to make people sick as any other form of chemical exposure.
Diacetyl, both a naturally occurring and man-made compound, is highly toxic. The compound is present in some foods and food processes and can cause serious lung diseases in workers and people who consume the foods. People who work in coffee plants, animal feed plants, bakeries, candy factories, and flavoring manufacturing plants are most at risk. Unfortunately, they are often unaware of their exposure to diacetyl.
People who breathe in diacetyl may develop a lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans. When diacetyl vapors enter the lungs, the tissue in the bronchioles becomes fibrotic and turns to scar tissue. Scar tissue does not carry oxygen the way it should, and the tissue will never heal. Symptoms of bronchiolitis obliterans include:
- scarring of lung tissue
- shortness of breath
- irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin.
Benzene is a highly flammable liquid commonly used in maintenance and repair work to cut grease and dissolve rust, and it evaporates quickly when exposed to air. A common chemical in the United States, benzene is used in work with plastics, lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, and pesticides. However, benzene is also a known carcinogen, and experts have linked it to several types of cancer.
Long-term exposure to benzene often has serious effects on the blood. Benzene can alter cell function in many ways. For example, benzene exposure lowers counts of red and white blood cells. In addition, it also causes several types of cancer, many of which are related to the blood. Experts have linked the following diseases to benzene:
- Acute Myelogenous Leukemia
- Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
- Multiple Myeloma
- Myelodysplastic Syndrome/Myelodyplasia
- Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
The Carlson Law Firm Can Help
Chemical exposure in the workplace is nothing to take lightly. While these chemicals have the potential to cause harm, there are many safety measures employers can and should take to keep their employees safe. Employers need to be held responsible if they don’t protect their workers. If you have suffered an illness as a result of chemical exposure on the job, you should contact a chemical exposure lawyer immediately.