Hidden Dangers: Chemical Toxicity on Construction Sites
While most workers understand the imminent risk of physical injury present on construction sites, they may not be aware of all the ways these toxins threaten their physical health. The chemical dangers on construction sites extend far beyond widely-known hazards, such as asbestos and lead poisoning. Because most contagions in construction are airborne, knowledge of the most damaging toxic chemicals commonly present on construction sites will allow workers to more proactively defend their health in these high-risk areas.
Breathing in, swallowing, and absorption through the skin are the most frequent ways toxins enter the body. Even forgetting to wash their hands before lunch can expose site workers to a range of dangerous chemicals. Construction procedures creating exposure to lesser known toxic substances include:
1. Rust-protection coating on steel
Cadmium, the chemical for protecting against rust, is used in most steel products on construction sites. This common element leads to severe lung irritation and emphysema, as well as pulmonary edema—a difficult breathing condition caused by too much fluid in the lungs. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates exposure to nearly 70,000 construction workers.
2. Brass, metal, and alloy manufacture
Zinc is used in most metal manufacture that necessitates cutting or welding. The fumes caused by cutting and welding zinc-based material has been known to cause “metal fume fever,” a flu-like illness resulting in nausea, muscle aches, joint pain, shortness of breath, and pneumonia. This condition is serious, requires immediate medical attention, and can take 2 to 3 weeks of recovery time.
3. Beryllium production, smelting, refining, and alloying
Beryllium is used as an alloying element with copper and other metals in a variety of industries, such as medical, aerospace, and telecommunication. Unfortunately, prolonged exposure leads to shortness of breath, chronic cough, weight loss, weakness, and— most notably— lung cancer. The danger of beryllium has led to OSHA enforcing stricter regulations in handling the chemical to protect workers from its life-threatening effects.
Contact a Construction Accident Lawyer in Detroit
Toxic chemicals present an uncalculated danger because a worker may have no idea they are receiving dangerous exposure. Sadly, the symptoms of such toxic exposure can arise immediately or years later, making it difficult to prove dangerous conditions on a construction site caused your injuries. However, enlisting the experience of a well-versed construction accident attorney at will make all the difference in obtaining just restitution for illnesses suffered in the workplace. If you believe workplace conditions caused your illness or injury, don’t hesitate to contact our compassionate legal team at (248) 948-9696 for diligent investigation in your case.