Millions of workers are exposed to cancer-causing substances every day and it is important to establish this connection when pursuing a work-related cancer claim. Individuals who don’t make this connection risk having their workers’ compensation claims denied. When lives and financial futures are on the line, workers’ compensation lawyers, physicians, and expert witnesses can help prove conditions are work-related.
Cancer-Causing Substances at Work
Carcinogens abound in numerous workplace environments. They can be found in cleaning solutions, insulating materials, finishing materials, sealants, and other substances that can be inhaled, absorbed, or ingested. This includes many commonly known chemicals and agents such as asbestos or silica, and it also includes seemingly innocuous agents such as wood and grain dust.
Employers have a duty of care to their employees to implement active measures to prevent potentially toxic exposures. This includes ensuring that chemicals and other agents are properly labeled, monitoring the status of these substances, limiting access to these materials, and ensuring that workers have both the training and appropriate safety equipment to protect themselves from harm.
However, there are instances where individuals can’t fully protect themselves. These include firefighters and other emergency responders who enter hazardous environments where control of such substances requires coming into contact with them. Not long ago, the law in Nevada finally granted these individuals protections, listing cancer as an occupational disease associated with the vital job they perform.
Sometimes, it is easy to establish causation, for instance, a shipyard worker from the 1960’s developing mesothelioma. Other times, it’s not so easy, such as a nanny who develops cancer following years of using Johnson and Johnson baby powder on the babies in her care.
Establishing exposure requires identifying the causative substance and the points where the individual would have come into contact with the carcinogen. It must also be established that the offending substance is a known carcinogen that can cause individuals to develop cancer years, or even decades in the future. Finally, it needs to be established that there was no intervening cause that could also be at fault. Often, company’s and their insurers argue that while a worker may have had a work-related exposure, they also had further exposures outside their employment and that those are the exposures responsible for the cancer.