According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), occupational asthma has overtaken asbestosis as the leading cause of new work-related lung disease. Occupational asthma is asthma caused or worsened by breathing in chemical fumes, gases, dust, or other substances on the job. More than 20 million U.S. workers are regularly exposed to substances that can cause airway diseases, including asthma.
A group of chemicals called “isocyanates” is the most common cause of occupational asthma. Workers can be exposed to isocyanates in a number of occupations, including spray foam insulation installation, spray-on truck bed lining application, and automobile and airplane painting. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Heath (NIOSH) estimates that approximately 280,000 workers are exposed to isocyanates annually.
In addition to breathing in vapors or mists, skin exposure to isocyanate liquids, resins, or droplets can lead to dangerous health consequences. Some workers who are exposed to isocyanates can become “sensitized” and eventually develop an allergy to isocyanates. When a worker has become sensitized, even small exposures to isocyanates can cause dangerous lung reactions – the most common of which is occupational asthma.
Asthma symptoms can occur while an individual is at work and may take several hours or days to appear. Once a worker begins to experience symptoms, continued exposure to isocyanates can worsen the asthma or even progress to a chemical bronchitis with severe bronchospasms. If a worker becomes sensitized to isocyanates, any exposure, even at very low levels, can produce an asthma attack that may be life-threatening.
Developing occupational asthma and a sensitization to certain chemicals can result in long-term lung damage, loss of wages, disability, or even death. Severe lung impairment can occur even after a worker wears respiratory protection and takes medication to treat his condition. Thus, those who become sensitized could unknowingly put their lives in danger despite taking all the necessary precautions.
Lawyers at Beasley Allen are currently investigating potential claims on behalf of workers exposed to isocyanates and other dangerous chemicals at work and now suffer from occupation asthma or other related illnesses. If you would like more information, you can contact Chris Boutwell, a lawyer in our firm’s Toxic Torts Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Chris.Boutwell@beasleyallen.com. He will be glad to help you.
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