Can brain injury result from exposure to toxic chemicals?

A sobering statistic may seem hard to believe: work-related illnesses take the lives of more Americans every year than gun-related incidents. Specifically, occupational illness claims about 50,000 lives annually, compared to 30,000 by guns.

The tragedy is that many, if not most of these deaths are preventable. For example, the dangers of asbestos exposure are well known. Yet construction workers may inadvertently loosen asbestos insulation while performing demolition, utility or other work duties. The invisible fibers could be released into the air and enter the lungs of many nearby workers.

Despite the existence of federal regulations set by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding asbestos in the workplace, employers who violate these safety standards might face only misdemeanors. By then, workers may already have been exposed to the substance and be well on their way to developing deadly conditions. 

In addition, the context of some workplace injuries is less apparent than others, according to a recent article. For example, an amputation that occurs while using an employer’s machine during the employee’s working hours is easily seen as a work accident. For other types of injuries, however, the causation may be more difficult to trace. In one example, a worker exposed to chemicals in a flooring factor succumbed to fatal brain injuries before his widow ultimately prevailed in obtaining legal benefits.

Although a worker may claim that a cancer or other deadly disease resulted from exposure to toxic substances in the workplace, it often takes the hard work of an attorney to help build a case. An employer may dispute the causation of such a workers’ compensation claim, pointing to other possible factors or known causes of cancer. An attorney can work with an injured worker to gather evidence of exposure, consult with medical experts, and develop a strong case. 

Source: Slate, “The Deadliest Scourge You Probably Haven’t Heard Of,” Jim Morris, Dec. 24, 2015

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