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Legal Blog

Maritime Toxic Chemical Exposure

Workers in the maritime industry face a number of risks every day. One of the biggest hazards to maritime workers is the potential exposure to toxic chemicals. Whether its contact with toxic fumes, solvents, or dust, exposure to harmful substances can cause a wide range of health consequences, including neurological damage, cancer, or even death.

The health effects of coming into contact with a toxic chemical may appear immediately, following a single exposure, or delayed after a period of chronic exposure. The severity of injuries resulting from contact with a harmful substance can differ depending on the individual susceptibility, the route of exposure, the length of contact, the amount of substance entering the body, and toxicity of the chemical.

Routes of Exposure

The four ways a toxic chemical enters the body are:

  • Inhalation – Toxic chemicals can be inhaled in a variety of forms including gasses, vapors, mists, dust, smoke, and fumes.
  • Direct contact – Exposure to chemicals in any form (i.e. liquids, solids, or gasses) can be absorbed through the skin or eyes.
  • Ingestion – This typically occurs because someone swallows contaminated food or drinks.
  • Injection – This is a far less common route of exposure in which a chemical enters the bloodstream through a puncture wound.

Some chemicals have differing effects depending on the route of exposure. Inhalation is by far the most common way that workplace chemicals enter the body. Regardless of how a harmful substance initially enters the body, it can be distributed throughout to virtually every organ system via the bloodstream.

Dangers of Toxic Chemical Exposure in the Maritime Industry

Longshoremen, offshore oil workers, seaman, and crew members may come into contact with a variety of potentially hazardous substances during the course of their employment. Some of the most common include:

  • Oil and Gas Extraction – benzene, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, hydrofluoric acid, silica, formaldehyde, diesel fumes
  • Shipping/Shipyard/Marine Terminals – hydrogen sulfide, flammable liquids, vinyl chloride, toxic metals (i.e. lead), spray finishing substances, industrial solvents, asbestos, cadmium

Toxic chemical exposure can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term). Chronic exposure over a long period of time can cause substances to build up in the body and lead to permanent health problems. It is also possible to be exposed to a mixture of chemicals, which can worsen the health effects of a given substance.

Maritime workers who are regularly exposed to harmful substances or high doses of extremely toxic chemicals are more likely to lead to long-term health effects. Health effects of toxic substances can be both local and systemic. Local effects refer to the immediate area that is damaged upon the chemical’s entry into the body (e.g. lungs, eyes, skin, nose). Systemic effects are the chemical’s damage to internal organ systems by way of the bloodstream.

Common Toxic Chemical Exposure Injuries

Maritime employers and vessel owners are legally obligated to maintain a safe workplace. Without the appropriate safety procedures and equipment, workers may be exposed to toxic chemicals, which can result in some of the following injuries:

  • Cancer
  • Neurological damage
  • Burns
  • Mesothelioma from asbestos exposure
  • Silicosis from silica dust exposure
  • Organ damage
  • Skin infections, rashes, and other skin diseases
  • Emphysema
  • Compromised immune system
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Infertility
  • Birth defects

How a Houston Maritime Accident Attorney Can Help

If you are a maritime worker that has been injured due to toxic chemical exposure in the workplace, it is important that you consult with an experienced maritime accident lawyer. At The Krist Law Firm, P.C. our team of Houston maritime accident lawyers has nearly 50 years of experience representing workers injured in a broad variety of maritime accidents.

Our skilled attorneys understand the complex set of federal maritime laws and doctrines that apply to offshore injuries and we have the resources to fight for the maximum possible compensation for your case. We have helped countless workers injured in the Gulf of Mexico and in shipping terminals off the coast of Texas obtain the compensation they deserve for their injuries. Our proven track record of success includes winning one of the largest maritime accident recoveries in Texas history.

Contact our maritime accident lawyers today at (281) 283-8500 for a free case evaluation.