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Occupational disease threats are present in many industries

As a follow up to the blog post about dangerous carcinogens posted on Feb. 10 (“Chrome plating may lead to development of an occupational disease“), workers in other industries may not be aware of similar threats that may be present in their work environments. Workers in all industries in Missouri and elsewhere have the right to be informed of any hazards that may cause an occupational disease. In many cases, work-related illnesses are diagnosed years later and are often not linked to the patient’s occupation.

In addition to companies doing chrome plating, hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) is present in other industrial environments where heat is applied to steel. These include manufacturers of stainless steel and various other alloy steel objects that contain chromium metal. Adding chromium metal to alloy steel increases the metal’s hardness and resistance to corrosion. So, whenever heat is applied, Cr(VI) is produced. Dangerous activities include welding and electroplating of chromium onto metal objects as decoration or protection.

Workers may not be aware that Cr(VI) is often added to plastics, paints, inks and dyes as a pigment. Its anti-corrosive qualities are also utilized in surface coatings, such as primers and paints. Considering the multitude of industrial environments where hexavalent chromium is present, millions of workers may unknowingly be exposed to this dangerous carcinogen. The families of workers face the same risks, as Cr(VI) dust can cling to the clothes of workers and be carried home.

Not only does hexavalent chromium cause cancer, but it can also cause illnesses that affect the liver, kidneys, respiratory system, eyes and skin of a worker. Employees in any of the industries in which this dangerous carcinogen poses an occupational disease threat may want to go for regular medical evaluations. As soon as medical conditions related to working with Cr(VI) become evident, affected workers may be eligible to pursue claims for benefits from the Missouri workers’ compensation insurance fund.

Source: osha.gov, “Safety and Health Topics“, Accessed on Feb. 20, 2015