The Dangers of Harmful Chemical Exposure at Work

Millions of hard-working Americans have been, and currently are, being exposed to dangerous chemicals due to their occupation. While some products like Fire-Fighting Foam (AFFF/PFOS) were widely helpful in saving lives during structural fires, the chemicals within these products have ill effects on firefighters and refinery workers, even decades later. Other products like Paraquat (otherwise known as herbicide) was used by farmers and hobbyist gardeners alike. However, this poses a serious risk to health as well. The most well-known example of this is the 10 billion dollar Roundup lawsuit. Lastly, industries such as construction, engineering, and mechanics can expose workers to asbestos- which is the sole cause of Mesothelioma.


AFFF/PFOS/PFOA


Firefighting foam has a long, life-saving history - however, studies have shown that PFOS (Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic pollutants. The United States, Canada, European Union, Australia, and Japan have banned the new production of PFOS-based products, including fire-fighting foams. The use of fire-fighting foam – up until 2016 – was notoriously used by military and air force bases. This certainly is alarming considering in 2019, high levels of PFOA and PFOS impacted five businesses, an office building and two homes in Dover, Delaware, due to the Dover Air Force Base using the foam to put out jet fuel fires since the 1970s.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some, but not all, studies in humans with PFAS exposure have shown that certain PFAS may:

  • affect growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children

  • lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant

  • interfere with the body’s natural hormones

  • increase cholesterol levels

  • affect the immune system

  • increase the risk of cancer

Thus far, the PFAS litigation has centered on lawsuits filed against PFAS manufacturers, which are primarily DuPont and 3M. For example, in 2010, Minnesota brought the first PFAS pollution claim against 3M for negligently discharging PFAS used in the manufacture of Scotchgard into sources of drinking water. The lawsuit resolved in 2018 for $850 million, which the state used to fund drinking water and water sustainability projects in the areas affected by contamination.


Paraquat (Herbicide)


For Farmers and gardeners alike, Paraquat was a helpful product to kill weeds. However, the herbicide has a few key characteristics, which led to Paraquat being used in the development of no-till farming

· It kills a wide range of annual grasses and broad-leaved weeds and the tips of established perennial weeds.

· It is very fast-acting.


However, Exposure to glyphosate -- the world's most widely used, broad-spectrum herbicide and the primary ingredient in the weedkiller Roundup -- increases the risk of some cancers by more than 40 percent, according to new research. Monsanto Roundup (glyphosate) weed killer is designated as a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization (WHO). Farmers, farmworkers, landscapers, gardeners, and others who use Roundup weed killer or other glyphosate-based herbicides are at risk for developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other forms of cancer.


Asbestos


Asbestos-related diseases can be cancerous or noncancerous. Even a benign asbestos illness, such as asbestosis, can be extremely serious, contributing to more than a thousand U.S. deaths each year.

Mesothelioma is known as the signature asbestos-related cancer. It is also the most deadly asbestos-related disease. An aggressive cancer, mesothelioma develops on the thin protective linings of the chest, abdomen, heart, or testicles. Doctors diagnose an estimated 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma in the U.S. each year, many of which can be traced to job-related asbestos exposure. The total number of asbestos-associated deaths in the U.S. is estimated to potentially exceed 200,000 by the year 2030. That figure is nearly quadruple the number of U.S. hourly factory workers employed by one of the largest union employers in the country.


There are many occupations where increased asbestos exposure is common. Any employee who worked for a long period of time in certain industries, like milling, mining, construction, and car repair, in the 1970s or earlier may be at risk for asbestos-related illnesses.


Asbestos exposure is not limited to just the industry you work in. There are many products, including home improvement materials, car brakes, gas fireplaces, and hair dryers, which included asbestos, and can increase your risk of exposure.



If you or a loved one fear that you have been exposed to any of the chemicals outlined in this article, it is imperative you reach out to an experienced Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation Law Firm to review your case. As Delaware’s Largest Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation Law Firm, Kimmel Carter is dedicated to you and your case. Our Attorneys have over 210 years of combined experience in Personal Injury, Workers’ Compensation, Torts, and Nursing Home Neglect cases.

For a free consultation, call Kimmel, Carter, Roman, Peltz, & O’Neill at 302-565-6100.

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