There are many different hazards lurking around a construction site. Besides heavy machines and dangerous power tools, there’s also the threat of slip-and-fall accidents, scaffolding accidents, trench collapses, crane accidents, and electrocutions. New York construction workers also have to deal with toxic exposure. While these cases aren't as common as other injuries, they're just as devastating.
If you're a New York City construction worker who has been exposed to toxins at a work site, please understand that you have legal rights. You can seek compensation for medical expenses, lost income, and other losses suffered because of toxic exposure on the job. The experienced New York personal injury lawyers at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, can help. Contact us at (212) 986-7353.
Practically all New York construction sites have a number of chemicals and compounds that are harmful to workers. To prevent construction workers from suffering harm, New York State’s plan for Public Employee Safety and Health (PESH) includes standards and regulations for toxic exposure. Property owners, general contractors, and employers are responsible for monitoring toxic exposure risks.
Unfortunately, not all employers properly monitor dangerous toxins. Construction workers in New York often suffer harm through direct contact with toxic chemicals, or through dust and fumes in the air. Many different building materials can cause injuries and illnesses, so it is important to remain vigilant and always use proper protective gear.
Here are some of the common toxins found in construction sites that could lead to injury or illness:
- Asbestos: A mineral that was commonly used in cement, insulation, roof shingles, textiles, and tiles for decades. It causes potentially fatal medical conditions. Construction workers who work on remodeling projects are often exposed to asbestos.
- Asphalt: Fumes from asphalt used in road paving, siding, and concrete work can cause headaches, rashes, fatigue, cough, and even skin cancer.
- Crystalline Silica: Workers can inhale crystalline silica whenever they chip, cut, or grind objects. Overexposure can result in the deadly lung disease silicosis.
- Formaldehyde: Workers asked to work with particle board, foam insulations, and plywood can be exposed to fatal amounts of the carcinogen formaldehyde.
- Lead: Our bodies are capable of absorbing lead and storing it in our bones before it's released into our blood. As lead spreads through the body, it can result in decreased motor speed, gastrointestinal and reproductive issues, kidney damage, and anemia. Symptoms are common for workers who perform demolition, dry manual sanding, power tool cleaning, spray painting, welding, and torch burning.
There are many other dangerous toxins found in New York construction sites, including mold, carbon monoxide, hexavalent chromium, solvents, fuels, manganese, and mercury.
A wide range of injuries and medical issues can arise from exposure to toxic chemicals. The injuries or illness depend on what toxic substance the person came in contact with and how long that exposure lasted. With that in mind, some of the most common complications from toxic exposure include:
- Burns: Burns can come from direct exposure to heat and other sources of thermal energy as well as from chemical reactions. Chemical burns are particularly dangerous since they are not always as immediately apparent. A chemical burn is also often more difficult to treat, and some chemicals only cause greater injuries if splashed with water. Serious burns require immediate medical treatment, as well as ongoing care to avoid infections.
- Allergic Reactions: While minor allergic reactions might only be a nuisance, serious reactions can be life-threatening. An allergic reaction occurs when someone's body is exposed to something that is perceived as a threat, and the body reacts in a negative way to combat this threat. Serious allergic reactions can shut a person's nervous system down or close up airways, resulting in loss of consciousness and even death if not treated immediately.
- Respiratory Problems: A wide range of respiratory problems can be caused by a lot of different materials. This can include occupational asthma, which is caused by dust and other particulates at the workplace rather than genetic factors. Even something as seemingly harmless as flour in the air can cause serious respiratory issues. Small minerals as dust, such as asbestos and silica, can cause scarring to the lungs, resulting in difficulty breathing and chronic coughing.
- Neurological Damage: Many toxic substances can damage the brain when ingested or inhaled. Certain toxins can interact with receptors and other chemicals in the brain with terrible results. Neurological damage can also be caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain, which can happen when toxic fumes replace oxygen in a person's lungs, or if a person is unable to breathe because of irritating particulates.
- Sensory Damage: Toxic chemicals and similar materials can do serious damage to the eyes and other sensory organs. Construction sites and manufacturers that use acids and other powerful chemicals must always require eye protection to prevent damage to the eyes or blindness.
- Cancer: Different forms of cancer can be caused by exposure to toxic substances, often in the lungs or similar organs. This includes mesothelioma, which is a form of cancer that occurs in the tissue around organs. The most common form is found around the lungs and is often caused by long-term exposure to asbestos in a breathable form.
- Lung Disease: Anything that is small enough to be breathed into a person's body has the potential to irritate the lungs and air passageways. Toxic materials that enter a person's lungs can cause terrible damage. Perhaps one of the most famous forms of lung disease is "black lung," an illness caused by decades of exposure to coal dust in the air. It is most often contracted by coal miners and results in chronic coughing and difficulty breathing.
If you are a construction worker experiencing any symptoms that could be linked to toxic exposure, it is critical that you get medical attention right away. Early diagnosis and treatment can save your life.
It's also crucial that you contact an experienced NYC construction accident attorney who has successfully handled toxic exposure cases. Contact Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP. We can help. Call (212) 986-7353 for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation and case evaluation.