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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 cancer caused only by an 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, wheel chairs, 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 the hazardous chemical 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 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

Your 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.

Not only are experts essential in finding and retaining evidence at the scene, they can also provide expert analysis of their findings and expert testimony during trial and arbitration.

Thomas J. Henry has spent years finding and building professional relationships with the best expert witnesses from all across the country. Expert witnesses that could benefit your workplace injury lawsuit include:

  • Workplace Safety Compliance Experts
  • OSHA Consultants
  • Hazardous Chemicals Experts
  • Ladder Experts
  • Process Safety Management Experts
  • Occupational and Environmental Health Experts
  • Safety Equipment Experts
  • Industrial Engineers
  • Industrial Accident Re-constructionist

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.

Workers’ compensation is a benefits program employers provide to workers to pay for hospital and medical expenses associated with on the job injuries. Workers’ compensation also provides disability payments while an employee is unable to work. Workers’ compensation covers most injuries, even those caused by the employee’s own negligence, but there or instances in which a workers’ compensation claim can be denied. These include:

  • Self-inflicted injuries
  • Injuries suffered while an employee is committing a crime
  • Injuries sustained by an employee while not on a job
  • Injuries suffered by an employee acting in a manner that violates company policy

While workers’ compensation typically precludes an employee from filing an personal injury lawsuit, Texas law does allow the employee to sue any other parties involved in the accident. In the instance of a scaffolding-related injury, this can include manufacturers of potentially defective products, a co-worker who committed a negligent or reckless act, or a non-employee who contributed to your injuries.

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.

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 are able to 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.

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 in a reasonable and prudent manner. 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 case for negligence.

Our Practice Areas

Representing injured victims from across the United States.

No matter the injury or the accident, if you or a loved one were harmed due to the negligence of an individual or company, Thomas J. Henry is here to assist you.

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