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Understanding the dangers posed by exposure to heavy metals

When it comes to work-related illnesses resulting in the onset of serious or even fatal conditions, the first one that most people understandably think of is mesothelioma attributable to asbestos exposure in the workplace.

While this is certainly understandable given the amount of media coverage devoted to mesothelioma in recent years, it's important to understand that this is just one of many dangerous and even deadly occupational diseases that workers in predominantly industrial settings are at risk of contracting. For example, consider the acute and chronic health issues that can develop through exposure to heavy metals.

What exactly are heavy metals?  

Found in the rocks located within the crust of the Earth, heavy metals have long been the focus of mining enterprises, and utilized in various consumer and industrial capacities. Even though they are naturally occurring, many heavy metals can prove toxic to humans.

How exactly do heavy metals make workers ill?

The primary problem with heavy metals is that they accumulate in the body over the course of time and with these increased accumulations comes increased toxicity. Indeed, skin penetration, inhalation of dust and ingestion are the primary dangers for workers.

Compounding the problem further is the fact that it's not always obvious that heavy metal exposure is responsible for many medical conditions and, as such, this can result in misdiagnoses by medical professionals and the gradual worsening of these conditions.

What are some of the symptoms of heavy metal exposure?

Those workers who have been over exposed to heavy metals may experience everything from anemia and general fatigue to brain damage and kidney damage. Indeed, overexposure to heavy metals can prove fatal over time.

Are there certain types of heavy metals that are especially dangerous?

Three heavy metals that have long been recognized as being especially dangerous are cadmium, mercury and lead.

We'll continue this discussion in our next post, exploring why these three heavy metals are so dangerous and what workers can do to protect themselves.

In the meantime, if you are suffering from what you believe is a serious illness attributable to exposure to chemicals or other toxic substances in the workplace, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your rights and options concerning workers' compensation benefits.

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