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Workplace chemical exposure and New Jersey workers

Bergen County workers can become ill without making an immediate connection between an illness or disease and a job environment. Unlike many work injuries, illnesses can take time to develop, diagnose and trace to a source in the workplace. Employees must report a work-related illness to an employer as soon as possible to meet filing deadlines set for New Jersey workers' compensation benefits.

Let's say you are diagnosed with chronic bronchitis from exposure to smoke or chemicals. Unless you work alone, it's likely other employees at the company are at risk of developing the same condition. Reporting this condition may help you and co-workers get the compensation required to cover medical expenses and wages losses.

Employers must take action when a work environment is unsafe. When they don't act, it places more workers in harm's way. Sometimes an occupational disease becomes an industry-wide problem, as in the case of a disinfectant used to clean ambulances.

The New Jersey Department of Health released a bulletin in early December 2014 warning emergency medical technicians about the harm a cleaning agent could inflict. Chemicals in an antibacterial fogging cleanser caused breathing problems for four EMTs. The workers were diagnosed with asthma.

Particles contained in the disinfectant mist were absorbed into the workers' bodies resulting in eye problems, headaches, nausea and asthma. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies disinfectants as pesticides, which include chemicals that cause respiratory problems.

Seek a medical opinion, if you suspect exposure to workplace smoke or chemicals has compromised your health. Then, discuss your health issue and legal options with an attorney. A lawyer can assist with any complications involving workers' compensation claims and pursue other forms of benefits, when applicable.

In addition, an attorney can identify any third parties that may be responsible for your injuries. Legal claims against negligent product manufacturers and others can be filed for damages.

Source: New Jersey Department of Health, "Health Alert Bulletin: Fogging Ambulances with Toxic Disinfectants May Cause Illness" Dec. 03, 2014

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