We have been asked to mention some of the workplace and consumer products that could potentially cause lung disease. Over the past few months, Lawyers at Beasley Allen have been sounding the alarm about workplace and consumer products that can cause severe lung disease. Our lawyers are now investigating cases involving these products. This month, we will detail a number of the different substances that can cause severe lung disease.
• Aluminum and Aluminum Abrasives: Used often in the manufacturing sector as well as in metal working, aluminum dust exposure can cause fatal severe lung disease, including pulmonary fibrosis, emphysema, and chronic beryllium lung disease (where aluminum is alloyed with beryllium).
• Asbestos: Asbestos was a commonly used, but ultra-hazardous substance, for decades. Exposure to the substance is known to cause asbestosis, COPD, lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, and the dreadful cancer mesothelioma. To date, tens of thousands of people have died as a result of asbestos exposure.
• Beryllium: One of the most dangerous substances known to man, beryllium is used in the manufacturing sector, metal alloys (particularly aluminum and copper), in lab technician equipment, in the aerospace industry, ceramics and in various telecommunications equipment. Beryllium is known to cause chronic beryllium lung disease, which is pathologically identical to sarcoidosis. The disease is oftentimes fatal without a lung transplant.
• Cadmium: Cadmium is present in the manufacturing industry as well as chemical emissions, and it is known to cause emphysema.
• Metal Carbides (tungsten, titanium, etc.): Often present in the manufacturing and metal working trades, metal carbide exposure can cause fatal pulmonary fibrosis.
• Chromium: Like metal carbides, chromium exists in the manufacturing and metal working trades, but it also is present in chemical and fossil fuel emissions. Chromium is known to cause lung cancer and pulmonary fibrosis.
• Coal Dust: Coal dust is present in the mining, railroad and steel industries, and it can cause black lung, COPD and emphysema. Black lung is estimated to kill 25,000 people per year.
• Kaolin: This substance is commonly used in pottery making, and exposure can cause pulmonary fibrosis.
• Iron Oxides: Often present in the manufacturing, metal working and welding industries, iron oxides can cause arc welder’s lung and pulmonary fibrosis.
• Talc: While many of our readers are aware of the fact that talc causes ovarian cancer, they may not know that exposure to talc (whether in the mining, manufacturing or cosmetics industries) can cause talcosis, a severe lung disease.
• Tin: Tin is used in the construction, manufacturing and metal working industries, and it can cause severe lung disease.
• Cotton and Agriculture Dust: Dust in various agriculture products can contain mold that can cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a severe lung disease.
• Styrene and Fiberglass: Exposure to styrene and fiberglass in a manufacturing sector that uses them can cause pulmonary fibrosis as well as bronchiolitis obliterans – a devastating lung condition that occurs when the bronchioles (small airway branches) are compressed by pulmonary fibrosis (irreversible scar tissue). Also known as “popcorn lung,” there is no cure for bronchiolitis obliterans.
• Coffee Fumes: Coffee fumes naturally contain diacetyl, which is known to cause bronchiolitis obliterans. As a result, coffee workers should be made aware of this hazard.
• Food Flavoring Additives: Diacetyl is used as a food flavoring additive and, as mentioned before, exposure to this substance can cause bronchiolitis obliterans. Anyone working closely with food flavoring additives in the food processing and manufacturing sector could be at risk for exposure.
• Silica: Exposure to silica can cause silicosis, a dreadful severe lung disease that kills an estimated 50,000 people per year. Workers in the mining, construction and sandblasting industries are particularly at risk.
• Manganese: Present in the manufacturing and metal working industries, manganese can cause fatal pneumonia.
• Nickel: Nickel is a metal commonly used to make coins, magnets, jewelry, stainless steel, electronics and industrial machine components. Despite its handy use, the nickel dust is a significant health hazard in the occupational setting, and it is known to cause lung cancer.
• Diesel Exhaust: Diesel exhaust – particularly in the railroad and mining industries, and any confined area where numerous heavy machines are utilized – is known to cause COPD, emphysema and lung cancer.
• Ammonia: Ammonia has a host of different uses, including as a fertilizer ingredient, to darken wood, as a fossil fuel scrubber, as a food treatment to kill bacteria, and as a cleaner. A heavy exposure of ammonia can cause severe and instant lung damage, and during industrial accidents, exposure has proven fatal.
• Chlorine: Used in the chemical industry, as a pool cleaner, and in the manufacturing industry, misuse of chlorine can result in a chlorine gas exposure, which can cause severe (and sometimes fatal) lung damage.
These are just some of the substances that can cause severe lung disease. If you have developed a severe lung disease that you believe could be related to an occupational or product exposure, you should contact a lawyer immediately. Depending on which state you reside in, the statute of limitations could be a major issue. That’s because your state may not apply the discovery rule (which allows for a period of time for the injured party to connect the exposure with the injury). If you believe you or a family member may have a claim or have any questions, contact Parker Miller, a lawyer in our Toxic Torts Section, at Parker.Miller@beasleyallen.com or at 800.898.2034.
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