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Work-related activities may expose workers to toxic chemicals, which can cause severe injury, occupational illness, or even death. While many chemical exposure injuries occur in occupational locations where dangerous chemicals are manufactured or used, some incidents of chemical toxicity injuries occur elsewhere, even in office buildings, schools, and restaurants, for example.
Work-related chemical exposure can occur through inhalation, skin contact, or ingestion. Exposure to toxic chemicals can cause burns and other skin rashes or lesions; inhalation injuries to the throat and lungs; nerve damage; neurological symptoms, and death. Occupational illness caused by chemical exposure can impact a person years later, as in the case of cancer-causing chemicals. Other effects of chemical exposure may be sudden and deadly.
For example, upon exposure to methylene chloride, the body begins to turn it into carbon monoxide, forcing out oxygen in the blood. In the absence of adequate protective gear, the chemical can quickly starve the heart and brain, causing asphyxiation and cardiac arrest. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), methylene chloride can cause a person to lose consciousness in just five minutes.
Recently, a 21-year-old man lost his life due to chemical exposure to methylene chloride while working for his family business. He was refinishing a bathtub using the chemical, which doctors have known for decades can be cause injury or death. In fact, in 2011, the European Union banned almost all consumer and professional uses of methylene chloride. In the United States, the chemical is readily available in home improvement stores. The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule in January 2017 to ban sales of methylene chloride. The rulemaking process can be slow, however, and employers should take appropriate precautions and consider alternatives to chemicals that will soon be banned by law to increase worker safety.
All employers have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment for workers. This is especially true where toxic chemicals are involved. Employers are required to take action to protect their workers through means such as installing ventilation systems, adequate training, incident reaction plans, access to showers, and providing protective gear – to name a few.
Despite increasing knowledge of the dangers of chemical toxicity, employers may not take all of the necessary steps to protect workers.
OSHA has issued a safety alert about methylene chloride, informing employers how to protect their workers from this dangerous chemical. Employers should take care to:
If you or someone you love suspects exposure to chemicals and/or lack of appropriate safeguards in the workplace, or has been injured by chemical exposure in the workplace, our experienced Milford Workers’ Compensation lawyers are prepared to help you. At Rhoades & Morrow, our attorneys can assist you with obtaining compensation for damages caused by your work-related injuries. Contact us online or call our Milford, Delaware offices at 302-422-6705 to schedule a free consultation.