While some workers are more at risk for toxic exposure than others, workers in nearly every occupation can be exposed to hazardous materials. From strong cleaning agents to chemicals used in the manufacturing process, exposure to toxic materials can lead to serious – often deadly – conditions. Exposure to asbestos fibers, for example, can lead to mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. Exposure to benzene has been linked to leukemia. Exposure to crystalline silica can lead to silicosis, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
For most workers in dangerous situations, toxic exposure generally follows one of three different pathways into the body:
- Inhalation: The breathing into the lungs of the dangerous fumes, fibers, dust or other particulate matter.
- Ingestion: The swallowing of toxic chemicals or hazardous materials. This can be caused by the material splashing onto a worker’s face, transferred to food from material on the hands or utensils, or wiping the mouth with contaminated clothing.
- Direct contact: Often, the material can seep into cuts or abrasions on the skin after direct contact. Additionally, some toxic material can be absorbed through the skin into the fatty tissue, muscle and bones underneath.
While not every workplace shares the same types of dangerous exposure, there are certain occupations where workers could find themselves facing deadly conditions on a regular basis. Common at-risk occupations can include miners, construction workers, welders, workers in heavy industry, and workers exposed to diesel fumes. Additionally, asbestos exposure is a common hazard in many occupations including automotive mechanics, pipe fitters and factory workers.
If you suffered dangerous exposure in the workplace, it is wise to discuss your options for monetary compensation with an experienced legal professional.