Common Hazardous Chemicals

Suggest that some substance or another is a “toxic substance” and most people’s eyes go wide with fear as they imagine another example of technology run amok – another synthetic, man-made horror story spreading disease and death.

What Are Hazardous Chemicals?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines a hazardous chemical as “any chemical that is a health hazard or a physical hazard.  In turn, OSHA defines a health hazard as a chemical that has been shown to produce acute or chronic adverse health effects.  Substances captured in this definition include carcinogens, poisons, reproductive toxins, corrosives, sensitizers, irritants, and substances that damage the skin, eyes, lungs or mucous membranes. A physical hazard is a chemical that has been shown to be explosive, flammable, or unstable.  These broad definitions corral a wide variety of substances– man-made and naturally occurring– that are capable of causing harm.

Where are Hazardous Chemicals found?

Hazardous Chemicals are found in several household products in addition to outdoor and public facilities:

  • Alcohol increases the risk of oral and esophageal cancer.
  • Arsenic can cause lung and other cancers.
  • Inhaled asbestos can cause lung and related cancers.
  • Benzene can cause the blood cancer, leukemia and the bone marrow cancer, myeloma.
  • Methylene chloride, the propellant used in many aerosol products, can cause liver, lung and brain cancer. Some products containing methylene chloride have been removed from the commercial market, but methylene chloride continues to be found in a variety of consumer products such as spray paints and paint strippers.
  • Schools, homes and office buildings have been unknowingly built on contaminated land. Older sites where polluting industries were located may not have been decontaminated and still present health risks from products such as lead, benzene and particulates.
  • Many building materials such as insulation, plastics, sealants, paints and finishes, particleboard, carpet, vinyl, foam furnishings and treated lumber release toxic vapors.
  • Pesticides oftentimes contain hazardous chemicals.
  • Cleaning products are a source of potentially hazardous chemicals including antimicrobials, solvents, fragrance, and surfactants.
  • Glues, paints, felt tip pens, stains, dyes, varnishes, photographic chemicals, glazes, plastics and resins are some examples of everyday materials that can be hazardous, especially to children.
  • synthetic fragrances and solvents are commonly found in a range of personal care products including, soaps, shampoos, perfumes, deodorants, hair spray, and detergents. Some sunscreens and insect repellants contain hazardous chemicals, as well.

Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals

Because they are present in so many manufacturing processes and products as well as in naturally occurring forms such as the UV rays in the sunlight we welcome every day, we are exposed to carcinogens in the air we breathe, the sunlight we enjoy, the water we drink, and in many consumer products we use daily. Residues of hazardous chemicals are taken into our bodies through the respiratory tract, the gastro-intestinal tract and through the skin.

Liability of Dangers and Risks

Our legal system is designed to protect the consuming public from unreasonable risks and dangers that can be avoided with the use of proper care in the manufacture, sale and distribution of products that contain hazardous substances and by providing proper warnings about the risks associated with the use of certain products.   It is not the case that any exposure to any hazardous chemical will cause cancer or other adverse effects.  Many toxic substances are only toxic in large doses or require repeated, long term exposure to cause harm to humans.  As a result, establishing a causal link between exposure to a hazardous chemical and the occurrence of illness or disease is oftentimes difficult.

Getting Legal Help

There is no question that exposure to known hazardous chemicals is a major public health issue.  The costs, both in dollars spent on treatment and the anguish of having yourself or a family member suffer from a preventable cancer or other illness or disease, are enormous.  Whether you already have a disease that is related to exposure to a known toxic substance, or were exposed to a known carcinogen or hazardous chemical but have no symptoms, or think you may have been exposed, you should contact a qualified attorney to discuss your situation and your rights to compensation.  Contact your local or state bar association for referrals to attorneys who are qualified and experienced in litigating claims for exposure to toxic substances.

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