Health Effects of Workers' Home Contamination
Workers who take home toxic substances and infectious diseases can pose a significant risk to their households and other family members. These workers may come into contact with harmful chemicals, pesticides, and other pollutants on the job. Without proper precautions, they can bring these toxins into their homes and expose their loved ones to dangerous health hazards.
One example is farmworkers who may come into contact with pesticides while working in the fields. These pesticides can stick to their clothing, skin, and hair, and if they do not take proper precautions, they can bring these toxins into their homes and expose their families to the same dangers they face on the job. Similarly, healthcare workers may be at risk of taking home infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, if they do not take proper precautions to protect themselves and others while on the job.
To mitigate this risk, employers need to provide workers with the necessary training and equipment to safely handle and dispose of toxic substances and guard against infectious diseases. This may include providing personal protective equipment, such as gloves, masks, and gowns, as well as training on proper hygiene and decontamination protocols.
Workers must first be notified by their employers and the product manufacturers of the toxic nature of the substances they work with. Workers should also be responsible for protecting their households and families by following safety protocols, such as showering and changing clothing before returning home and properly disposing of contaminated clothing and equipment. It is also important for workers to be aware of the potential health hazards of their job and to communicate with their family members about the potential risks and how to minimize them.
Workers who take home toxic substances and infectious diseases can pose a significant risk to their households and other family members. Employers need to provide workers with the necessary training and equipment to handle and dispose of these hazards safely and for workers to take personal responsibility for protecting their loved ones. With proper precautions and awareness, we can minimize the risk of exposure and protect the health and safety of workers and their families.
Workers can inadvertently carry hazardous materials home from work on their clothes, skin, hair, tools, and in their vehicles. As a result, families of these workers have been exposed to hazardous substances and have developed various health effects. Health effects have also occurred when the home and the workplace are not distinct -- such as on farms or in homes that involve cottage industries.
For some contaminants, there are other potential sources of home contamination, such as air and water pollution and deteriorating lead paint in the home. Only a few studies in the literature used epidemiologic methods to estimate the relative risks of health effects from the contaminant transported home by the worker independent of health risks due to other sources of the contaminant in the home.
Little is known of the full range of health effects or the extent to which they occur due to workers' home contamination. There are information systems to track illnesses and health conditions resulting from these circumstances. Many of the health effects among workers' family members described below were recognized because of their uniqueness, their clear relationship to workplace contaminants, or their serious nature.
CHRONIC BERYLLIUM DISEASE
This potentially fatal lung disease has occurred in families of workers exposed to beryllium in the nuclear and aviation industries and workplaces involved in producing beryllium and fluorescent lights and gyroscopes.
ASBESTOS-RELATED DISEASE: ASBESTOSIS, LUNG CANCER, AND MESOTHELIOMA
Fatal lung diseases have occurred among family members of workers engaged in the manufacture of many products containing asbestos, including thermal insulation materials, asbestos cement, automobile mufflers, shingles, textiles, gas masks, floor tiles, boilers, ovens, brake shoes, and other friction products for automobiles. Families have also been exposed to asbestos when workers were engaged in mining, shipbuilding, insulating (e.g., pipe laggers and railway workers), maintenance and repair of boilers and vehicles, and asbestos removal operations.
LEAD POISONING, NEUROLOGICAL EFFECTS, AND THE BRAIN
These health effects have occurred in children of workers engaged in mining, smelting, construction, manufacturing (pottery, ceramics, stained glass, ceramic tiles, electrical components, bullets, and lead batteries), repair and reclamation of lead batteries, repair of radiators, recovery of gold and silver, work on firing ranges, and welding, painting, and splicing of cables.
PESTICIDES AND NEUROLOGICAL CONDITIONS
Farm families and families of other workers exposed to pesticides have suffered these serious effects.
CAUSTIC SUBSTANCES AND CHEMICAL BURNS
Chemical burns of the mouth and esophagus and fatalities from ingesting caustic substances have occurred in farm families when hazardous substances were improperly used and stored on farms.
CHLORINATED HYDROCARBONS AND CHLORACNE
Family members have been exposed when these substances were transported home on the clothing of workers manufacturing or using these compounds in the production of insulated wire, plastic products, ion exchange resins, and textiles. Family members have been similarly exposed when workers' clothes became contaminated during marine electrical work, transformer maintenance, municipal sewage treatment, rail transportation, wood treatment, and the application of herbicides.
MERCURY AND NEUROLOGICAL EFFECTS
Family members have developed various neurological effects as a result of being exposed to mercury carried home on the clothing of workers engaged in mining, thermometer manufacture, and cottage-industry gold extraction,
Abnormal development from estrogenic substances.
Enlarged breasts have occurred in boys and girls and premature menstruation has occurred in girls from estrogenic substances brought home on contaminated clothing of pharmaceutical and farm workers.
Farm families and others have suffered asthmatic and other allergic effects from animal allergens, mushrooms, grain dust, and platinum salts.
ARSENIC - ANGIOSARCOMA OF THE LIVER
Families of workers engaged in mining, smelting, and wood treatment have been exposed to arsenic from contaminated skin and clothing; one child developed liver angiosarcoma.
FIBERGLASS AND POLYESTER
Family members have developed dermatitis when their clothing was contaminated with fibrous glass during the laundering of insulation workers' clothing.
EXPLOSIVES - STATUS EPILEPTICUS
A child experienced epileptic seizures following ingestion of an explosive compound brought home on the clothing of a worker engaged in manufacturing explosives.
VIRUSES AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES - COVID-19
Family members have contracted infectious diseases such as scabies and Q fever from agents brought home on contaminated clothing and skin of workers engaged in agriculture, hospital, and laboratory work. As intended by Congress, infectious agents are included as hazardous substances to the extent that pathogens can be transported on a worker's person or clothing.
The author, Jon L. Gelman, practices law in Wayne, NJ. He is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters). For over five decades, the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman 1.973.696.7900 firstname.lastname@example.org have represented injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.
Recommended Citation: Gelman, Jon L., Health Effects of Workers' Home Contamination, www.gelmans.com (2023),
© 2001-2023 Jon L Gelman. All rights reserved.
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