When toxic exposure affects your quality of life, you may be entitled to compensation.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has numerous guidelines in place designed to protect workers that may be exposed to toxic substances in a wide range of industries and occupations. Even so, there are sometimes accidents and oversights that can result in exposure to toxic substances.
Whether exposure happens as a result of a one-time incident or over a long period of time, which is more common, illnesses may develop that seriously impact quality of life.
Occupational exposure is the most common cause of asbestos disease, referring to the various health complications and conditions related to asbestos. The most prominent of these is mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that’s incurable. Prolonged exposure to asbestos may also lead to asbestosis (diffuse pulmonary fibrosis), a respiratory ailment characterized by shortness of breath that may take anywhere from 10 to 30 years to develop. Plumbers, roofers, insulation installers, and factory workers are among the groups of employees at high risk for this type of exposure.
Naturally produced during fires, benzene is a flammable, colorless chemical compound that’s a major component in gasoline. It’s also widely used to make an assortment of products, including rubber lubricants, dyes and detergents, various plastics, and pesticides. There’s research suggesting that even low-level exposure from auto emissions and cigarette smoke may be harmful. Firefighters and individuals working in gasoline-related industries, refineries, chemical plants, and labs may absorb benzene through breathing or skin contact. There’s also evidence suggesting benzene, which may irritate skin and affect the respiratory and nervous system, could be linked to certain forms of leukemia.
Exposure to some form of the chemical element lead may result in lead poisoning. Prolonged exposure to lead, which may enter the body through the digestive or respiratory system, has been associated with high blood pressure, joint and muscle pain, headaches, memory issues, and changes in mood. Plumbers, lead miners, shipbuilders, glass manufacturers, and construction and autoworkers are among the types of workers that may be exposed to lead in the workplace. Potential sources of lead include old paint, ammunition, glazes used on ceramics, and lead-contaminated soil.
Talcum powder contains a soft mineral known as talc. It’s widely used in various cosmetics and baby powder. Natural talc contains asbestos, which has been linked to cancer. However, talc containing asbestos hasn’t been used in consumer products since the 1970s. Today, it’s occupations such as talc mining that may result in exposure. There is also research suggesting women who regularly apply talcum powder to the genital area may be at an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. If talc poisoning does occur, sufferers may experience difficulty breathing and other respiratory issues.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis often involves blood tests, images tests, and a review of a patient’s medical history and possible sources of exposure. Treatment will depend on the specific condition that resulted from exposure. With cancer, this usually includes chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Symptoms and signs typically associated with toxic exposure include:
- Cancer developing without any other known contributing factors
- Respiratory ailments that may limit activities
- Reproductive issues such as miscarriages and infertility
- Neurological problems that may result in seizures, convulsions, headaches, or persistent discomfort
Since toxic exposure doesn’t always result in immediate health problems, it can sometime be difficult to link exposure to toxic substances to a specific time period, location, or source. What a personal injury attorney can do is investigate individual circumstances in an effort to identify negligent or responsible parties. Depending on the situation, compensation may be sought for pain and suffering and long-term health care expenses.