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Toxic Substances: Their Illness-causing Effects Go Beyond the Workplace

Work-related injuries and work-related illnesses caused by regular exposure to toxic chemicals in the workplace always register a high rate of claims lawsuit in the U.S. While all types of workers may be exposed to risk of injury or illness, some of those in the greatest danger are people in the construction business where hazardous chemicals are always present and regularly used.

Toxic chemicals can surely inflict harm on anyone who is not properly suited when handling these substances or who is exposed to these substances every day. Worst, the workers themselves are not the only ones who may be harmed by these substances: family members, who come in contact with the fumes or harmful fibers which stick to workers’ clothes or skin, as well as residents who live near areas where these substances are used and stored, can be harmed too. And if an illness actually develops, its symptoms and harmful effects are usually not immediately obvious; there have been many occasions, in fact, when the harmful effects of substances became manifest only after months or years have already passed.

Toxic substances can cause skin rashes and, if its fumes get inhaled often, this can cause disease in the lungs, kidney, or liver. The most common substances that can cause these medical problems are disinfectants, acids, solvents, caustic substances, pesticides, petroleum products, glue and heavy metals (like aluminum, cadmium, lead and mercury).

To help ensure the safety of workers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a by-product of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 which is tasked to ensure the protection of every worker in the workplace, put into effect the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) in 1986. The HSC, also called the Right-to-Know law or the Worker Right-to-Know Legislation, mandates employers to inform workers about the hazardous and toxic substances found and used in the workplace.

Though OSHA has significantly reduced the number of workplace accidents since its creation in 1971, 4,500 fatalities and 4.1 million serious injuries every year continue to be recorded. This is because so many employers continue to ignore OSHA’s stipulations on safety standard, others, though, just have very poor management style: these directly result to acts of negligence.

As pointed out in the website of the Crowe & Mulvey, LLP, law firm, exposure to toxic substances can be due to failure to quarantine toxic chemicals; chemical explosions or fires; failure to provide workers with protective gear or equipment; chemical spills; and, failure to find toxic chemicals in demolished materials.

Employers face great responsibility towards those they may harm due to very poor ways of handling toxic substances. A person, who develops an illness and suspects that this is due to his or her exposure to toxic substances, may find it wise to contact immediately a personal injury lawyer who can explain to him or her the possible legal action he or she may be able to pursue.