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Occupational exposures to toxins claim workers' lives

Every year anywhere between 50,000 and 100,000 people die prematurely from being exposed to toxins in the workplace. In fact, occupational exposures to these hazards are number eight on the list of causes of death in the United States.

Because most of those who die from conditions caused by on-the-job toxic exposures don't succumb immediately after an exposure, it is difficult to accurately determine just how serious the problem really is. But there is a heavy toll being taken from American workers in the manufacturing and other sectors, as many spend years or even decades battling chronic illnesses that sap the vitality from their lives.

These deaths may officially be attributed to lung cancer or some other respiratory ailment, yet the real culprit is on-the-job exposures to chemicals for far longer and in much higher toxicities than is considered safe.

While substances like asbestos are known carcinogens and safeguards are finally in place to protect workers and their families from exposures, each year there are thousands of different chemical compounds with few safeguards or standards that are released into production.

In many cases, strict environmental protection standards stop at the door of the factory. The Environmental Protection Agency continues to decrease the reproductive toxins, neurotoxins and carcinogens that get released into the atmosphere, but they can do little to protect workers who face exposures of as much as a million times higher while carrying out their job duties.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration oversees the safety of 130 million workers in the United States, but they don't have the resources to truly be proactive. Most of their money and manpower are devoted to investigating and preventing workplace accidents even though occupational exposures kill 10 times the number of workers than all of the workplace accidents together do. In fact, OSHA dedicates less than 5 percent of its annual budget to preventing diseases in the workforce.

If you are exposed to toxic substances while on the job, you can take legal action against the company that caused you to become sick. Learning all of your options is the first step to fighting back against a large corporation.

Source: PEER.org, "Put the "H" Back in OSHA," accessed Aug. 12, 2016

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