Toxic Chemical Exposure Statistics

“In 2017, 41 U.S. workers died on the job after a single episode of inhaling chemicals and chemical products.” Some of the worst offenders included carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, coal, natural gas, petroleum products, and methane gas. “Inhaling carbon monoxide led to the most fatalities” from 2011 to 2016. (1)

But inhalation is not the only way someone can be exposed to and made sick by chemical exposure. Some estimates suggest “more than 13 million workers in the United States are potentially exposed to chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin.” Dermal exposure to hazardous substances can lead to skin diseases and systemic toxicity. (2)

Food poisoning is also sometimes linked to added chemical toxins. The federal “government estimates that there are about 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually — the equivalent of sickening 1 in 6 Americans each year. And each year these illnesses result in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.” (3)

Types of Toxic Chemicals

Some toxic substances are manmade, but others occur naturally in the environment. These harmful gases and chemicals include: (4)

  • Carbon monoxide.
  • Hydrogen sulfide.
  • Methane.
  • Methanol.

Other examples of toxic chemicals are:

  • Pesticides and herbicides — One herbicide called paraquat is used on soybeans, corn, cotton, alfalfa, orchards, grapes, and pasture. It has already been banned in many countries because it is so dangerous. (5)
  • Asbestos — As a known carcinogen, asbestos exposure can lead to an aggressive form of cancer called mesothelioma. This disease devastates its victims and families. (6)
  • Gasoline additives — MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) is one of the worst offenders. Sometimes this substance leaches into groundwater contaminating residents’ drinking water. (7)
  • PFOA and PFOS — Perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate acid are used in a variety of products. They are contaminating drinking water across the country.
  • Arsenic — This element can be deadly. You can be exposed to arsenic through industrial processes, contaminated food, or even your water. (8)
  • Mercury — The natural element, mercury, is a poison. It can be released into the environment by coal-fired power stations, industrial processes, or waste incinerators. (9)
  • Benzene — Another poisonous danger is benzene. It can be utilized to make other chemicals used to manufacture pesticides, plastics, dyes, lubricants, rubbers, detergents, and nylon. (10)
  • Radium — “Radium is produced by the radioactive decay of uranium.” Now restricted, a century ago, you could find radium in toothpaste, hair creams, and even food products. Manufacturers also used it in luminous paints for watches, clocks, and instrument dials. (11)
  • PCBs — Polychlorinated biphenyls are manmade. They were used in industrial applications banned in the U.S. in 1979. PCBs were used in electrical insulators, televisions, refrigerators, and other products. Their waste products remain in dump sites and landfills. (12)
  • Dioxins — Mainly, dioxins are by-products of industrial processes. They contaminate everything they touch: air, water, soil, plants, dairy products, meat, and fish. (13)
  • Solvents/Degreasers — “Cleaning solvents are used to remove oil, grease, solder flux, and other contaminants.” Types include trichloroethylene (TCE), methyl chloroform (TCA), and dichloromethane (DCM, methylene chloride). (14)

All these toxic chemicals can be hazardous to your health. They can cause a variety of illnesses.

If you were seriously injured by toxic chemical exposure, contact us today for a free consultation.

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Injuries Caused by Chemicals

Injuries caused by toxic chemicals vary depending on the substance you were exposed to. For example: (15)

  • Chlorine — cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
  • Hydrogen sulfide — skin and mucous membrane irritation, seizures, myocardial ischemia, keratoconjunctivitis, and upper airway and pulmonary injury.
  • Carbon monoxide — confusion, stupor, coma, seizures, and myocardial infarction.

Chemical exposure can also cause cancer, death — or both — depending on the specific chemical. For example, you can suffer carbon monoxide poisoning if it builds up in your bloodstream. Too much “can lead to serious tissue damage, or even death.” (16)

Carbon monoxide gas is particularly dangerous because it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. You can breathe in carbon monoxide gas from burning different types of fuel, including gasoline, wood, propane, and charcoal. “Improperly ventilated appliances and engines” could make it possible for carbon monoxide to reach dangerous levels. (17)

The Consumer Product Safety Commission of the U.S. reported “145 incidents resulting in an estimated 210 unintentional non-fire” carbon monoxide “poisoning deaths associated with the use of consumer products” for 2018. Engine-driven tools were the main culprit leading to poisoning deaths. (18)

Legal Options Include Negligence

Manufacturers and other businesses are expected to act responsibly and ensure the safety of people who work with or around toxic chemicals. All companies have a responsibility to safeguard the people who live near their facilities or buy their products.

Businesses and other large organizations have a duty to ensure they dispose of industrial waste safely, protect drinking water, and safeguard the air you breathe. If their actions cause you to be exposed to a toxic chemical, they can be held accountable.

If you or a loved one was severely injured from toxic chemical exposure, your case may fall under negligence if companies or individuals were indifferent in their care of toxic chemicals.

Lawsuit Falls Under Product Liability

Cases can also fall under product liability if a product you purchased contained a toxic chemical and you were exposed. We live in a world filled with all kinds of products, from household appliances, to medical devices, to toys, to gardening supplies. The possibilities are practically endless, and many of these products contain or were manufactured with potentially harmful chemicals.

For example, some sleep apnea CPAP, BiPAP, and ventilator devices have been recalled because they contain a harmful substance called polyester-based polyurethane (PE-PUR). This “sound abatement” foam integrated in the medical device airpath releases toxic and cancer-causing particles and gases. You can inhale or ingest this poisonous chemical.

In the case of joint replacement implants, components can rub together causing friction. In the process, toxic metal particles can leach into surrounding tissues. This metallosis causes some people to develop serious health complications.

Sometimes your chemical exposure injury is not an isolated incident. Your injury might be part of something larger, where many people were hurt by the same product or the same environmental concern. You could be the person who brings attention to a widespread problem.

Were you harmed by toxic chemical exposure? Call today for a free consultation.

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How W&L Can Help

Businesses operating in states across the country are expected to meet federal standards of safety. But individual states also have their own laws and regulations the businesses must follow.

If you have been severely injured from exposure to toxic chemicals in New York, absolutely look for a law firm with experience handling personal injury cases in the state. This type of firm knows the state’s laws and regulations inside and out.

But also look for a law firm with a national presence. You want a firm that has gone up against large manufacturers operating throughout the U.S. And won.

Choose a Firm with Experience

Weitz & Luxenberg is one such firm — acting locally and nationally. Our attorneys across the country handle personal injury lawsuits involving air pollution, water contamination, and defective products and medical devices. Even more important, Weitz & Luxenberg has a solid history of winning.

Here are just a few examples:

  • W&L helped achieve a financial settlement on behalf of nearly 100,000 Americans who developed a specific type of cancer after being exposed to Roundup, a leading weed killer.
  • W&L helped secure a $65.25 million settlement on behalf of roughly 3,500 residents of a New York community who were exposed to drinking water contaminated with the toxic chemical PFOA.
  • W&L helped get a $423 million settlement on behalf of 153 public water systems across the country whose water was contaminated with the gasoline additive MTBE.
  • W&L helped secure a settlement of close to $1.8 billion on behalf of a community of nearly 8,000 households harmed by a massive gas blowout spewing roughly 100,000 metric tons of methane gas and other toxic substances into the environment.