Workers have historically worried about a loud environment causing damage to their hearing. Now there is a growing concern about ototoxicants – chemicals which could cause hearing damage and eventual hearing loss.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) have provided guidance regarding ototoxicity. Generally, there are five types of ototoxicant chemical substances:
- Pharmaceuticals which can include certain types of antibiotics, diuretics and analgesics.
- Solvents, including carbon disulfide, n-hexane, toluene and ethylbenzene.
- Asphyxiants which can include carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide and tobacco smoke.
- Nitriles, including compounds such as 3-Butenenitrile and acrylonitrile.
- Metals and compounds, including mercury compounds, lead, organic tin compounds and germanium dioxide.
Occupational health and safety professionals caution workers and managers that harmful exposure can come in the form of inhalation, ingestion or skin absorption. The risk of hearing loss is significantly increased when workers are exposed to both toxic substances and elevated noise levels. Depending on factors such as the type of exposure, type of substance, duration of exposure and level of noise, the hearing loss might be temporary or permanent.
While numerous workers can be at risk for hearing loss in various occupations, certain industries show a greater history of damage. Examples of industries that make significant use of ototoxicants can include:
- Manufacturing plants
- Mining facilities
If you have suffered hearing loss or reduced hearing capacity due to exposure to harmful substances at work, it is crucial that you discuss your case with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. Whether you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits or compensation through a third-party liability case, it is important to fully understand your legal rights.