The presence of certain chemicals in the surrounding environment could slowly be poisoning you and can lead to serious health problems. Depending on the substance to which you are exposed, the symptoms may manifest immediately or they may manifest after several years.
Some of the more common examples of environmen poisoning include:
- Asbestos – an insulator found in older buildings;
- Lead – present in old paint;
- Methyl ethyl ketone – also found in old paint;
- Carbon monoxide – released from damaged/ low-quality gas appliances.
Before it was banned, asbestos was widely used in several different industries for a variety of purposes. Its most common use was in the building industry, where it was used in tiles, paints, and adhesives and also for insulation, roofing and sound proofing. The shipbuilding industry was another huge consumer of asbestos.
When products containing asbestos are disturbed, the fibres can be released into the air. Inhalation of these fibres cause them to enter the lungs where they accumulate and cause inflammation and scarring. This can impact breathing and cause serious health issues.
Exposure to asbestos also increases the risk of contracting asbestosis, mesothelioma, pleural plaques, pleural effusions, pleural thickenings and a host of other pulmonary disorders.
Those who work in industries that regularly use asbestos are at the most risk of contracting these disorders. These include those working in insulation companies, drywall removers, demolition workers, and fire-fighters, in addition to those directly involved in the manufacture and use of asbestos.
Symptoms of asbestos poisoning are not immediately evident and can take several years to manifest, as much as 10 to 40 years.
Although asbestos has been banned for several years, thousands of people are still dying each year in the UK from diseases like mesothelioma that has been caused by asbestos exposure, and it can still be found in old buildings, pipelines and products. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to detect the presence of asbestos in the environment and by the time the symptoms manifest, it is often too late.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Exposure to carbon monoxide, even for short durations can have adverse effects. This is because it binds to haemoglobin more readily than oxygen. This means that the body absorbs carbon monoxide more quickly and circulates it to various parts of the body. This causes severe oxygen deprivation which results in headaches, dizziness, nausea, and tiredness at low levels of exposure and more serious effects such as loss of vision, memory, and death at higher levels.
Continuous exposure to even low levels of carbon monoxide can result in neurological disorders like difficulty in concentrating, loss of memory, and depression amongst others. Carbon monoxide is mainly released from un-burnt fossil fuels. This makes exhaust fumes emanating from vehicles and machinery operated by petrol, diesel, and coal extremely harmful.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur due to blocked chimneys, exhausts and burning of fuel or running fuel-powered machinery in enclosed and poorly ventilated spaces. It may also occur due to the use of portable heaters in cars, and portable homes.
Water being contaminated by industrial effluents, biological wastes and other substances, is perhaps among the most dangerous scenarios today. What adds to it is the fact that most of these compounds cannot be filtered. It is also extremely difficult to determine the presence of several harmful substances without expensive tests.
The contaminants can include microbes such as bacteria, viruses, animal excreta, untreated sewage, and industrial effluents. Each of these contaminants can cause a totally different set of symptoms, but they may include abdominal pains, diarrhoea, fatigue, fever, weight loss, flu, nausea, muscle aches, vomiting, and dehydration. In a worst case scenario, it can be fatal.
Conventional methods such as boiling and filtering water can eliminate only germs, bacteria, and larger detritus. It is almost impossible to eliminate most chemical contaminants and viruses since they are a lot smaller than the holes in the filter membranes and can easily pass through them. Depending on the nature of the contaminant, even very small levels of exposure can result in serious illnesses.
Another major environmental hazard is lead poisoning. It is a very serious and potentially fatal condition, which is caused by excessive lead build-up in the body. It can be caused by air, soil, water, and food contaminated by lead. It is also found in older buildings and toys which use some older types of paint.
Apart from this, several processes can create lead dust, fumes or vapors. These include burning and blast removal of old paint, hot cutting processes in dismantling and demolition, lead recovery from scrap, lead smelting and manufacturing of lead-based compounds.
Absorption of lead can occur by inhalation of dust, fumes and/ or vapours or by oral ingestion of small quantities due to consumption of food regularly without washing contaminated hands.
Exposure to lead can cause issues like abdominal cramps, behavioural changes, insomnia, irritability, fatigue, loss of memory, anaemia, memory loss, kidney disease etc. It is particularly harmful to children since it results in loss of development skills.
Can You File A Claim For Environmental Poisoning?
While exposure to such harmful substances may occur anywhere, the probability increases significantly in people who work in or live near industries that use toxic chemicals and cause the release of fumes, especially when proper safety rules and regulations are not followed. They may also occur in other groups due to soil contamination, water contamination or due to processes such as biomagnifications.
If it can be proved that any of the above conditions were caused due to negligence or overlooking established regulations, then compensation claims can be made.
To be eligible for compensation, you will need to establish that:
- The injury was sustained as a result of negligence;
- Another individual, authority or company was responsible for the accident;
- The injuries were caused as a result of exposure.
One thing to keep in mind is that proving environmental poisoning is not easy. If you or a loved one has been affected by any of the factors above, the best thing to do is to get professional advice from an experienced accident claims solicitor. They will help you get adequately compensated for your pain and suffering and will ensure that your medical bills are covered too.