Texas Workplace Chemical and Toxic Exposure

Have You Been Exposed to Harmful Chemicals at Work?

Every year, workers are killed by an exposure to toxic chemicals due to the negligence of their employer.

When employers fail to protect their workers, they must be held accountable for the damages that they caused.

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Asbestos and Mesothelioma

In general, mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused only by asbestos exposure. The lungs, stomach, heart, and other organs are lined with tissue called mesothelium. Mesothelioma is a tumor of this tissue, which usually starts in the lungs but can spread to other organs as well. Unfortunately, mesothelioma can take up to 40 years to form and is often found when in its advanced stages, increasing the difficulty of treatment.

Symptoms of mesothelioma include:

  • Breathing problems
  • Pain under the rib cage
  • Weight loss
  • Pain and swelling of the abdomen

Treatments exist for the disease, but there is no cure. Annually, 2,597 people die each year due to mesothelioma, and approximately 3,000 others are diagnosed each year.

Another condition that can result from asbestos exposure is asbestosis. Asbestosis is a respiratory disease that can have a severe effect on quality of life. Like mesothelioma, asbestosis symptoms may not occur until many years after asbestos exposure. Symptoms include shortness of breath, lung scarring, loss of appetite, weight loss, dry cough, and chest pain.

There is no cure for asbestosis, and the disease increases the risk of developing lung cancer.

Benzene Exposure

Benzene is a clear, non-corrosive, and highly flammable liquid used primarily to make other chemicals and plastics. The hazardous chemical was classified as a carcinogen (known cancer-causing substance) by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1980.

Benzene is widely used in the United States and it ranks in the top 20 chemicals for production volume. Unfortunately, workers that are exposed to benzene are at an increased risk of developing life-threatening blood disorders and cancers.

Benzene exposure can occur through inhalation or skin absorption. Short-term, high-level exposure can cause eye and skin irritation, drowsiness, dizziness, unconsciousness, and death. Long-term exposure can increase the risk of blood diseases, such as anemia, and certain blood cancers, especially acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Other blood cancers linked to benzene exposure include:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Although some studies have suggested links between benzene and the aforementioned cancers, the evidence is not as strong as the evidence linking the hazardous chemical to AML. In addition, some studies have shown that women may sustain damage to reproductive organs. Women who breathed in high levels of benzene over an extended time suffered from irregular menstrual periods and ovary shrinkage, but it is unknown if it was a direct cause of benzene exposure.

Beryllium Disease

Beryllium is a lightweight, heat-resistant metal that is used in the aerospace, nuclear, and manufacturing industries. It is also present in a number of consumer products including dental appliances, wheelchairs, sports equipment, and electronic devices. Beryllium may be useful in a wide range of industries and settings, but it is also known to cause chronic lung ailments in workers.

Beryllium is categorized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a Category 1 carcinogen, which deems the chemical cancer-causing in humans. Other Category 1 carcinogens include asbestos, benzene, and diesel exhaust. Exposure to beryllium fumes and particles has been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer.

When a person is exposed to high levels of beryllium through dust or fumes, they may develop beryllium disease, an ailment that primarily affects the lungs. Beryllium disease has two forms: acute and chronic. The acute form is now rare due to the regulations put forth by workplaces to prevent large quantities of hazardous chemicals from being released into the air. According to the Cleveland Clinic, of those working around beryllium, around 10 percent get sensitized to the metal, and approximately half of those people progress to develop chronic beryllium disease (CBD, or berylliosis).

Beryllium disease may be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms, which mimic those of pneumonia, can sometimes take thirty years or more to appear after exposure. Signs and symptoms of beryllium disease include:

  • Skin rash
  • Weight loss
  • Anorexia
  • Heart disease
  • Heart enlargement
  • Lung cancer

Cancer Caused by Firefighting Foam

Firefighting foam, officially known as aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), is a specialized foam used by firefighters since the 1950s. The purpose of this foam is to blanket fires, preventing oxygen from reaching and further fueling the flames.

However, the manufacturing of the foam uses dangerous chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS have been linked to various forms of cancers with firefighters developing:

  • Kidney (renal) cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Neuroendocrine tumors
  • Prostate cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer (colon and/or rectal cancer)

Major health organizations including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the American Cancer Society (ACS) have all noted that PFAS may be linked to cancer in firefighters. The EPA has even classified PFAS as “emerging contaminants” that are likely dangerous to human health.

Cancers resulting from the use of AFFF and PFA-containing formats are not limited to firefighters. Other occupations at an increased risk of exposure include airport workers and current and former military servicememebers.

Cancer Among Railroad Workers

A study of 55,000 railroad workers found that workers who operated trains were 40% more likely to develop lung cancer than the general population. The study was able to link the increased cancer risk to diesel exhaust, which contains benzene, a known carcinogen.

Many railroad workers have also been exposed to high levels of asbestos, another known carcinogen. For decades, asbestos was commonly used in sealants, gaskets, brake pads, brake lining, and insulation materials.

Other cancers linked to railroad work include:

  • Bladder Cancer
  • Bone Cancer
  • Colon Cancer
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Lung Cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • Myelodysplastic Syndrome
  • Skin Cancer

A study of 55,000 railroad workers found that workers who operated trains were 40% more likely to develop lung cancer than the general population. The study was able to link the increased cancer risk to diesel exhaust, which contains benzene, a known carcinogen.

Many railroad workers have also been exposed to high levels of asbestos, another known carcinogen. For decades, asbestos was commonly used in sealants, gaskets, brake pads, brake lining, and insulation materials.

Other cancers linked to railroad work include:

  • Bladder Cancer
  • Bone Cancer
  • Colon Cancer
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Lung Cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • Myelodysplastic Syndrome
  • Skin Cancer
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Your Chemical & Toxic Exposure Questions Answered

We have straight answers to difficult questions to help you make critical decisions, navigate legal process and help you get justice.

Following an accident, there are always more questions than answers. At Thomas J. Henry, we’re here to answer any questions you have about your injury case.

If you have been injured in a workplace accident, there are a few things you can do to help secure workplace compensation as well as strengthen any claim to additional recoveries you may have.

Seek medical attention. First and foremost, you should seek treatment for your injuries. Understanding the extent of your injuries is not only important to make a full recovery, but will also help you gauge how much that recovery is going to cost you. If you do not feel completely comfortable with the company doctor, go to your own physician for a second opinion.

Report your injury. Workplace injuries need to be reported in a timely manner. Also, keep your supervisor or manager up-to-date on any subsequent developments. If your doctor has diagnosed an injury that was not immediately evident at the time of your initial report, let your supervisor know.

Get a written report of the accident. Your employer must take a report of the accident. You are entitled to a copy as well. Do not let your employer deny you a physical copy of your report for your own records.

Identify witnesses. If someone witnessed your accident, get their information. You may need to refer back to their account of the incident later.

Take photos. Take photos of the area, including any tools or equipment that may have played a role in the accident.

Write an account. You will likely be asked to make statements about your claim multiple times. Having a detailed account that was written while the accident was still fresh in your mind can help keep your statements concise and accurate.

Contact an attorney. Even if you plan on going through workers’ compensation, contacting an experienced attorney can help ensure you are receiving a fair amount. Thomas J. Henry offers free consultations to all injured victims. Our attorneys are available 24/7 – seven days a week.

If you fell from scaffolding while on the job, depending on the circumstances under which your accident occurred and whether or not your employer offers worker’s compensation, you may be able to sue your employer or a third party who was involved in your accident.

Roughly 4,836 worker deaths and 2.9 million non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses are recorded in the United States every year. Among the most common causes of death and injury in the workplace are falls, slips, and trips.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that falls, slips and trips result in 16.5% of all recorded fatal workplace injuries. This makes falls the second most common cause of death in the workplace, exceeded only by transportation accidents.

Additionally, fall protection and Scaffolding are consistently among the top three most frequently cited standards by Federal OSHA.

The Legal Information Institute defines negligence as a failure to behave with the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised under the same circumstances. While the behavior in question usually consists of actions, it can also consist of omissions when there is some duty to act.

When attempting to ascertain whether a person’s conduct or behavior lacked reasonable care, lawyers will consider the four elements that are required to establish a prima facie case (a legally required rebuttable presumption). The elements are:

  • The existence of a legal duty that the defendant owed to the plaintiff
  • The defendant’s breach of that duty
  • The plaintiff’s sufferance of an injury
  • Proof that the defendant’s breach caused the plaintiff’s injury

When it comes to a construction site, your employer, contractor, and co-workers owe you a general duty of care and must conduct themselves reasonably and prudently. This duty of care can also extend to the owners of the property that is under construction, any transportation companies responsible for transporting materials to the site, as well as the manufacturers of machinery and products being used in the construction project.

If any of these parties acted in a way that contributed to your injuries, you may have a negligence case.

When working to determine whether negligence resulted in your accident and injuries, your attorney will often apply what is commonly called the “but-for” test. In a statement, that would be “but for the actions of the defendant, my client would not have suffered his injuries.”

If the statement is true, your attorney will have established cause-in-fact or “actual cause.” This is then strengthened through investigation, the gathering of evidence, and interviewing witnesses. Your attorney may also incorporate the help of expert witnesses to help prove negligence and discover if the actions of the defendant violated federal or state regulations.

Expert witnesses often used in Texas construction accident cases include:

  • OSHA consultants
  • Accident reconstructionists
  • Welding experts
  • Confined space permit experts
  • Engineering experts
  • Safety equipment experts
  • Occupational and environmental health experts
  • Hazardous chemical experts
  • Process safety management experts

These experts can provide detailed information about a construction accident. Because of the experts Thomas J. Henry uses, we can bring in information that many other law firms lack. We use a multitude of expert witnesses, putting you in the best position possible to achieve the compensation they deserve.

Generally, a construction site will have several different contractors and employers on-site at any given time. Because of this, it can sometimes be difficult to determine who is liable for your injuries. This is why it is a good idea to get in contact with an experienced construction accident attorney. Not only can an attorney help identify all the entities responsible for your accident and injuries, but they can also help you recover compensation from the entities even if your employer has already begun paying out workers’ compensation.

Some instances in which liability may go beyond your employer are:

  • A commercial vehicle operator striking scaffolding, causing fall injuries.
  • Electrocution that occurred at an apartment complex with poorly maintained wires.
  • Injuries caused by a construction worker being exposed to asbestos at a job site.
  • Injuries caused by a defective piece of machinery or equipment.
  • Injuries caused by a co-worker who acted negligently while under the influence of a narcotic or alcohol.

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