Some Lehigh Valley workers may worry about damage caused by breathing in toxic substances while on the job. Hazardous chemicals and other poisonous materials have several ways to enter the body, including through an employee’s skin. Estimates state over 13 million U.S. workers are exposed to dangerous chemicals that cause occupational skin diseases or systemic harm.
You don’t have to be working in a laboratory to contract a skin disease or condition caused by toxic exposure. Cosmetologists, farmhands, food service employees and construction workers are among the victims of workplace exposure to hazardous chemicals.
Skin can be injured, irritated and infected due to direct exposure. Victims also can suffer systemic toxicity after substances like pesticides penetrate the skin and spread through the body.
Occupational skin diseases are common, particularly contact dermatitis or eczema, which is categorized as irritant or allergic contact dermatitis. In both cases, the skin becomes inflamed and responds with symptoms of swelling, redness, itching and pain. Blisters and flaky skin also may appear.
Contact dermatitis is responsible for up to 95 percent of all occupational skin diseases. Skin symptoms are triggered by direct exposure to a toxic substance in irritant dermatitis, the most prevalent form, or flare up due to an allergic reaction after repeated exposure to a harmful substance. Four out of every five work-related dermatitis cases are diagnosed as irritant contact dermatitis.
Determining whether dermatitis is due to direct irritation or an immunological response often requires a patch test. Damage also is assessed by factoring in how long a victim was exposed to a chemical or other toxin, the concentration of the substance, the skin’s health before exposure and the environment at the time of the accident.
MHK Attorneys can help injured and ill Pennsylvania workers file claims for workers’ compensation benefits. In some cases, legal action may be advisable to recover damages from negligent third parties.