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Occupational Fatalities in the United States/by Disease – Facts – Part II

September 30, 2014 by The Parrish Law Firm

Burden of Occupational Disease

Fatalities due to occupational disease are a large source of human suffering and economic cost. It has been estimated that between 26,000 and 72,000 deaths occur due to occupational disease every year in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that close to 300,000 occupational illnesses were detected in 2002.

The costs of occupational illness in the United States are likely more than 14 billion dollars on an annual basis. Occupational cancers and occupational heart disease compose a large percentage of the burden of occupational diseases. Estimates of deaths in the United States due to occupationally-related cancer and heart disease are 12,000–26,000 deaths and 6,000–18,000 deaths per year, respectively. Costs are estimated at 9 billion dollars for those two groups of illnesses alone each year.

Occupational Health Risks – Diseases

In 2010, more than 3.8 million workers – across all industries had work-related injuries and illnesses that were reported by their employers. Because there are limitations in the “injury reporting system” and “underreporting” of workplace injuries, this number largely understates the problem. The true toll is estimated to be two to three times greater—or 7.6 million to 11.4 million injuries and illnesses a year.


Occupational Heart Disease

  1. Carbon Disulfide – Most exposure to this chemical occurs in the workplace. It is considered to have a direct effect on the myocardium (muscle tissue of the heart). Evidence shows that a direct causal relationship between carbon-disulfide and coronary artery disease is very strong. Carbon disulfide is used predominantly to manufacture rayon, cellophane, and carbon tetrachloride, to produce rubber chemicals and pesticides.
  2. Carbon Monoxide – Carbon monoxide acts to precipitate ischemia (blockage to the heart) by reducing oxygen delivery to the myocardium (muscle tissue of the heart). Bridge and tunnel officers, motor vehicle examiners and iron foundry workers are at the top of the list for exposure to increased levels of Carbon Monoxide. The CDC reports that this is a contributor to heart disease and occupational death.
  3. Environmental Tobacco Smoke – Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by smokers. Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic and cause coronary heart disease.
  4. Nitroglycerin – Munitions Workers, Explosives Industry Workers, Construction Workers who handle Dynamite. Chest pains in workers withdrawing from exposure to Nitroglycerin has been termed Monday Morning Angina. Documented effects of workplace exposures include headache, blood pressure changes, rash, chest pain, changes in electroencephalogram readings, pulse rate changes, palpitations, nausea, altered sensation in extremities, alcohol intolerance, dizziness, and fainting.
  5. Shiftwork – Many studies show that shiftwork contributes to not only heart disease but obesity, strokes and ulcers as well. Shift Workers are defined as those who work during non-regular hours, for instance the night shift. It is felt that interruptions in the natural sleep time, lack of proper diet and stress that working this type of job creates are important factors in contributing to heart disease. Studies also show that Night Shift workers had the highest risk for heart attack and stroke, particularly in the first 10 to 15 years on the job.
  6. Stress – Many studies show that psychologically demanding jobs that allow employees little control over the work process increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Chronic stress exposes your body to unhealthy, persistently elevated levels of stress hormones – adrenaline and cortisol. Studies also blame stress to changes in the way blood clots, which increases the risk of heart attack.

Occupational Cancer

  1. Liver Cancer – Vinyl Chloride has been noted as an occupational liver carcinogen. Vinyl chloride is a colorless flammable gas that quickly evaporates. It’s used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes, wire coatings, vehicle upholstery, and plastic kitchen pieces. Higher than normal levels of vinyl chloride may be present inside new cars as the chemical evaporates from new vinyl products.
  2. Laryngeal Cancer – Sulfuric acid is recognized by IARC asa laryngeal carcinogen. Sulfuric Acid is one of the most produced and considered one of the most important chemicals in the United States today. More of it is made each year than is made of any other manufactured chemical; more than 40 million tons of it were produced in the United States in 1990. It has a widely varied uses and plays some part in the production of nearly all manufactured goods. The major use of sulfuric acid is in the production of fertilizers, e.g., superphosphate of lime and ammonium sulfate. It is widely used in the manufacture of chemicals, e.g., in making hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, sulfate salts, synthetic detergents, dyes and pigments, explosives, and drugs. It is used in petroleum refining to wash impurities out of gasoline and other refinery products. Sulfuric acid is used in processing metals, e.g., in pickling (cleaning) iron and steel before plating them with tin or zinc. Rayon is made with sulfuric acid. It serves as the electrolyte in the lead-acid storage battery commonly used in motor vehicles. http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/science/sulfuric-acid-uses-sulfuric-acid.html
  3. Sinonasal & Nasopharyngeal Cancer – Furniture and cabinet making, wood dust, nickel compounds, hexavalent chromium, shoe and boot manufacturing and repair, and isopropanol manufacturing using the strong-acid process have all been associated with cancer of the nasal passages.
  4. Leukemia – Exposure to ionizing radiation is associated with causing Leukemia. Some of the occupational settings that are most at risk for this are health care facilities, research institutions, nuclear reactors and their support facilities, nuclear weapon production facilities, and other various manufacturing settings.
  5. Bladder Cancer – A number of occupational factors have been associated with bladder cancer. 2-naph-thylamine used to make azo dyes, magenta manufacturing, benzidine, auramine manufacturing, and 4-aminobyphenyl.


Occupational Lung Diseases

  1. Asbestosis – Most often associated with Occupational exposure. Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. Asbestos fibers can cause lung tissue scarring and shortness of breath. Asbestosis symptoms can range from mild to severe. Symptoms don’t usually appear until many years after the continued exposure occurred.
  2. Pneumoconiosis – Is most commonly known as Black Lung Disease. Pneumoconiosis can manifest itself when a person has inhaled one or more of a range of substances (often forms of dust). The inhaled substances collect in the alveoli or air sacs in the lung and can cause an inflammatory reaction that can turn the normal elastic lung wall into fibrous scar tissue which can cause the lung to loose elasticity and impair lung function. Some common causes are silica found in mining and pottery making,
  3. Silicosis – Silica is a common, naturally-occurring crystal. It is found in most rock beds. Silica dust forms during mining, quarrying, tunneling, and working with certain metal ores. Silica is a main part of sand, so glass workers and sand-blasters are also excessively exposed to silica. Abrasives manufacturing, Glass manufacturing, Mining, Quarrying, Road and building construction, Sand blasting, Stone cutting are a few occupations that are at high risk.
  4. Byssinosis – Also known as Brown Lung Disease or Monday Fever is caused by over exposure to cotton dust. Most commonly found in worker in the yarn and fabric manufacturing industries.
  5. Malignant Mesothelioma – It’s only known cause is from breathing in asbestos particles. Occupations that have the highest risk of exposure are: Aircraft Mechanics, Asbestos Mining, Auto Mechanics, Boiler Workers, Cement Plant Workers, Construction Workers, Engineers, Firefighters, Hairdressers, Insulators, Metal Workers, Paper Mill Workers, Power Plant Workers, Shipyard Workers, Textile Mill Workers, Appliance Installers, Asbestos Plant Workers, Blacksmiths, Carpenters, Chemical Plant Workers, Electricians, Factory Workers, HVAC Mechanics, Industrial Workers, Linotype Technicians, Oil Refinery Workers, Plumbers, Railroad Workers, Steel Mill Workers.
  6. Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis – Occurs from repeated inhalation to a large variety of aerosolized antigenic organic dust particles. Occupations that are predisposed to this risk are Farming, animal and bird raising, bakers and machinists.


The Parrish Law Firm Occupational Fatality Attorney works with Northern Virginia residents who have been injured because of another party’s negligence and are looking for fair compensation. Contact us today for a free case consultation or call us at 703-906-4229.

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A representative of the Parrish Law Firm, PLLC researched and wrote this article with Mr. Parrish’s consent. If you have any questions regarding the legal implications of what you have just read, please send us your question by clicking here so we can have our attorney review it.

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