The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released official evaluations of three chemicals found widely in household products. One chemical in particular, which is used in paint stripping products, was especially condemned. The agency estimates that more than 230,000 American are directly exposed to the chemical in their work. Toxic substance attorneys at Pintas & Mullins detail the EPA's report and the health risks of chemical exposure.
Making the problem even more widespread, the EPA notes that the paint stripping chemical is a risk not only to those working directly with it, but also to bystanders in places the product is used. The chemical, dichloromethane (DCM), is also used in pharmaceutical manufacturing, metal cleaning, and degreasing. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) designates DCM as a potential carcinogen.
OSHA has specific standards for DHM exposure in the workplace, which varies between industries. There are unique rules for shipyard employment and the construction industry, for example. Those exposed to DCM are at risk of developing several types of cancer, heart conditions, liver problems, central nervous system problems, or irritation of the skin and eyes. These can occur if DCM is in haled or comes into contact with the skin.
Employers are required by federal and state laws to protect workers from toxic substance exposure of any and all kinds. For DCM, this can be done through engineering controls, like isolating the source of DCM and using ventilators, or by personal protective equipment, such as respiratory equipment or clothing. It is also employers' legal responsibility to make sure all their employees understand the identities and hazards of toxic chemicals. All hazardous substances must be labeled and have corresponding safety data sheets. Employees must also be trained appropriately, including information on the dangers of each chemical and how to protect themselves.
There are over 15,000 chemicals OSHA identifies as toxic or dangerous, some of the most insidious being asbestos, arsenic, benzene, diacetyl and lead. Lawsuits regarding exposure to asbestos - which more often than not occurs in the workplace - are now the largest, longest-running cases in the country. Asbestos is a fibrous material found in construction materials like insulation and heat-resistance materials such as automobile brake pads. If the fibers are inhaled, they can implant permanently in the lungs and, over time, cause a specific type of cancer known as mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is almost always fatal, and is only caused by exposure to asbestos. It is a particularly devastating form of cancer because so many people are unaware where, when or how they were ever exposed. Mesothelioma patients are often left confused with many questions about asbestos, exposure, and how it developed into cancer.