In the late 1970s, the country learned to associate the name Love Canal with chemical pollution and environmental diseases. Many more people became familiar with the concept of environmental and occupational disease through the media - particularly the 2000 move, Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts. Despite the attention to environmental illnesses, though, few people are aware of the hazards to their health that lurk in many workplaces.
Occupational diseases are more than a blip on the national health scene. In 1976, a report by the U.S. Congress reported that 100,000 people die of diseases and illnesses that originated in their workplaces and that 390,000 people were diagnosed with occupational diseases each year. And though many people could tell you what mesothelioma is and how it was caused by exposure to asbestos in the workplace, few of them understand how the actions of a few corporations endangered the health of an entire country. Even worse, few people have any idea that they are being exposed to toxic chemicals and hazardous substances at work every day.
Asbestos is possibly the best known toxic carcinogen encountered in the workplace. Today, there are strict standards for safety and handling of asbestos, but for decades the asbestos industry hid its dangers from workers and the general public. While the use of asbestos is greatly regulated now, there was so much asbestos used in construction through 1979 that many workers encounter it in the workplace regularly. Those at risk of exposure include emergency responders, renovators, construction workers, demolition workers and maintenance workers in older buildings. Anyone who may come into contact with asbestos should be trained to recognize asbestos containing materials and in procedures on safe handling. Unfortunately, there have been many cases where workers have been exposed to asbestos and asbestos containing materials with no training and no safety equipment. This is a violation of the law. Anyone who believes they were exposed to asbestos without proper training or safety precaution should contact a lawyer experienced in toxic tort cases for help in getting justice.
Benzene is an organic compound that is a known carcinogen. It has been used as an industrial solvent, and is used in making rubber, in oil refineries and chemical plants, and in gasoline related industries. Those at risk of benzene exposure include pesticides production, detergent production, solvent production, paint and varnish production, waste management, oil refineries, chemical plants, shoe manufacturers, and petroleum processing industries. Exposure to benzene has been implicated in many diseases of the blood, including acute myeloid leukemia, anemia and chromosomal abnormalities. OSHA strictly enforces workplace levels of both long-term and short-term benzene exposure. Any employer who exceeds those levels is subject to fines and workers may be entitled to compensation for any damages.
Beryllium is an inorganic compound derived from minerals. It is used in making lightweight metals, especially in the aerospace industry and the nuclear energy industry, and in other industries that use lightweight, strong metals. Beryllium exposure can cause lung cancer, pneumonia and other lung diseases. However, in 1-15% of the population who are sensitive to the substance, exposure to beryllium can cause Chronic Beryllium Disease, chronic inflammation of the lung tissues that can eventually be fatal.
There are many other toxic substances used in industry, from industrial solvents and detergents to ingredients in plastics to paints and adhesives. Workers are not always told that they are being exposed to dangerous compounds. If you or a loved one believes you may have been exposed to a toxic chemical at work, an experienced toxic torts lawyer may be able to help learn the truth and get justice for your injuries.