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Workers can be exposed to toxic substances

Even though progress has been made in removing toxins such as lead, asbestos and DDT from certain products, new chemicals and artificial ingredients have made their way into everyday consumer products and building materials. Sometimes toxic materials get into the water and air, where we can't avoid them.

Just ask the residents of Flint, Michigan, who are dealing with toxic water and people who live in the Los Angeles suburb of Porter Ranch, where a methane gas leak has forced homeowners to relocate to avoid the toxic air.

For people who work with and around toxic substances day-in and day-out, the toll on their health can be devastating. Sometimes, the effects aren't felt until years after a worker has been exposed to a substance. For example, even though asbestos is no longer used as a fire retardant or insulation, people who used to inhale the dust from asbestos can find themselves stricken with conditions like mesothelioma, which results from dust particles deposited in the lungs.

Workers are still exposed to a number of toxic materials and chemicals. For example, the fumes from welding rods have been linked to debilitating conditions including Parkinson's disease.

Other potentially dangerous substances are still found in some workplaces. These include benzene, which is a chemical released via burning oil and coal as well as vehicle exhaust that can cause cancer. Another one is perchlorate, which is a type of chemical used in fireworks and other explosives that can cause thyroid disorders.

While not all toxic substances can be eliminated from the workplace, employers still have an obligation to keep workers as safe as possible. If you or a loved one has suffered an illness or died and you believe that the cause may have been exposure to a toxic substance, you should see what your options are for obtaining workers' compensation.

You may also be able to seek other damages, either via an individual or class-action suit. These are referred to as toxic torts. A Chicago attorney can provide guidance.

Source: FindLaw, "Toxic Chemicals & Materials," accessed Jan. 20, 2016

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