Every day, millions of Americans are exposed to potentially toxic chemicals in the course of their work.  Most instances of exposure will not generate adverse reactions—however, in cases when chemical toxicity occurs, victims can face serious health consequences.  Here is what you need to know about occupational exposure to toxic chemicals, and when to contact a lawyer.

toxic chemical exposureWhat are Toxic Chemicals?

Toxic chemicals refer to organic or inorganic substances that are hazardous to human health if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin or surfaces of the body.

Industrial workers are especially at risk of being exposed to toxic chemicals in the workplace.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) maintains an extensive list of the most hazardous toxic chemicals that may be encountered in the workplace.  Examples of common hazardous chemicals encountered in the workplace include:

  • Acetone
  • Bromine
  • Chlorine
  • Hydrogen Peroxide >35%
  • Cyanogen
  • Isopropyl alcohol

Signs to Look for with Chemical Toxicity

Chemical toxicity refers to the adverse effects produced by chemical exposure—commonly referred to as ‘poisoning.’  Exposed individuals will exhibit different symptoms depending on the toxic substance in question, the quantity of this substance, and the length of exposure.

Toxicity is usually classified based on the system(s) of the body that is affected.

Category Areas Affected Common Symptoms
Respiratory Nose, throat, lungs Irritation, coughing, tightness of the chest
Gastrointestinal Stomach, intestines Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting
Renal Kidneys Back pain, changes in color or frequency of urination
Neurological Brain, nerves, spinal cord Headache, dizziness, confusion, coma, convulsions
Hematological Blood Anemia
Dermatological Skin, eyes Rashes, itching, redness, swelling
Reproductive Reproductive organs Infertility, miscarriage

Most symptoms of acute chemical toxicity that are not permanent and can be overcome with the removal of the toxin and medical treatment.  However, in rare cases or when there is chronic exposure, toxic chemicals can cause cancer, serious illness, or death.  If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical treatment and consider contacting a toxic chemical exposure lawyer.

How to Avoid Workplace Poisoning

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains strict guidelines meant to protect workers from toxic chemical exposure.  OSHA mandates that employers with hazardous chemicals in the workplace must label these chemicals and provide safety data and training to employees on how to handle these chemicals safely.  OSHA also sets limits on the amount of a given chemical that workers can legally be exposed to.  Employers are required to identify and evaluate any potential hazards in their workplace and take measures to ensure employee safety.

The single most effective way to prevent chemical toxicity is by being proactive about identifying potential hazards and advocating for your own safety and rights in the workplace.  Employers and workers should both continuously assess hazards by:

  • Collecting and reviewing information about the hazards present or likely to be present in the workplace.
  • Conducting workplace inspections to identify new or recurring hazards.
  • Investigating injuries, illnesses, incidents, and close calls/near misses to determine the underlying hazards, their causes, and safety and health program shortcomings.
  • Identifying trends in injuries, illnesses, and hazards reported.
  • Considering hazards associated with emergency or non-routine situations.
  • Determining the severity and likelihood of incidents that could result for each hazard identified and using this information to prioritize corrective actions.

If you are required to work around toxic chemicals, insist that your employer take steps to mitigate chemical exposure, for example by providing:

  • Proper training to all employees on the handling and uses of chemicals.
  • Proper labeling of all workplace chemicals.
  • Proper safety infrastructure, for example cleanup stations.
  • Proper safety equipment, such as ventilators, masks, or gloves.
  • A safety plan or protocol in case of emergency, for example in the event of a hazardous spill.
  • Proper disposal of hazardous waste.
  • Sufficient ventilation in the workplace.

If your employer has failed to observe all of OSHA’s requirements for a safe workplace, request that they take measures to come into compliance.  If they ignore or improperly address your request, file a claim with OSHA and consider consulting with toxic tort lawyers.

What to do if You’ve been Exposed to Toxic Chemicals

If you have been exposed to toxic chemicals in the workplace and are exhibiting symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.  Even minor symptoms, such as itchy eyes or a rash, warrant assessment by a medical professional, since these symptoms can indicate a more serious underlying condition.

Be sure to report your exposure to your supervisor, and notify your union representative if you have one, or workplace health and safety representative.

Contact a Toxic Exposure Lawyer

If you have suffered adverse health effects as a result to occupational exposure to toxic chemicals, contact a workers’ compensation attorney at The Dominguez Firm to discuss your options for legal recourse.  Our team of experienced toxic chemical exposure attorneys has assisted industrial workers in and around the greater Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, San Bernardino and Ventura County areas to file successful claims for compensation.  Call for a free consultation about your case at (800) 818-1818.

My experience was good. They made sure to kept me in the loop and made sure to let me know what was going on the whole time. My mom has used other attorneys and this experience was beyond better. I would definitely recommend them!

— Ashley Magana

The attorneys were always available and answered my questions. I would recommend them to anyone. Zoe is the best!

— Janet Salazar

My experience with The Dominguez Firm and the attorneys was really good. They were very informative and always returned my calls.

— Jocelyn Gonzalez