58-year-old Chris had spent more than three decades restoring old homes in Chicago when he started to notice severe digestive problems during the summer of 2008. He visited his family doctor, who referred him to a specialist. The specialist discovered that Chris was suffering from stage III mesothelioma, a highly lethal cancer. His work as a restoration contractor had put him in long-term contact with asbestos. Chris died 18 months after his diagnosis.
Many forms of cancer can be traced to harmful conditions in the workplace, as a worker compensation lawyer in Crystal Lake is aware. This guide to common job-related cancers can help employees know their risks and protect their rights.
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Mesothelioma is one of the most notorious of all occupational cancers. It is caused by breathing asbestos fibers. Contact with the fibers can cause tumors to develop in the lining of the lungs, stomach and other internal organs, disabling and eventually killing the patient. The long-term prognosis for mesothelioma is grim. Many workers are at risk for this disease, including employees who work in old buildings, structures or ships containing asbestos. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many cases of fatal work-related cancer do not appear until as many as 40 years after exposure on the job. Mesothelioma is especially problematic because it is often delayed for decades after the last contact with asbestos. A young man or woman may breathe asbestos fibers in the workplace and remain completely unaware of the health risks until sudden illness occurs in middle age or old age. At that point, many employers are unable or unwilling to offer compensation.
- Skin cancer
Many outdoor workers spend years exposed to the sun. Even if they take proper precautions to shield themselves from ultraviolet rays, they may be at risk of skin cancer. Some forms of skin cancer are relatively harmless and slow to spread. Others, such as malignant melanoma, can spread to the bones and vital organs in a matter of months. Outdoor employees have the right to sufficient shade and rest breaks during hot, sunny weather. They are also entitled to proper visual protection to shield the eyes against UV rays, which can trigger the growth of cancer cells.
- Lung cancer
Not all cases of lung cancer are found among smokers. Every worker compensation lawyer in Crystal Lake recognizes that some young and healthy workers develop lung malignancies after exposure to noxious substances on the job, even if they have never smoked. People in all of the following industries and trades are at risk of job-related lung cancer:
- Jobs involving diesel fueling and diesel engine exhaust
- Working with radon or ionizing radiation
- Coal gasification
- Exposure to coal pitch and coal tar
- Steel and iron foundry work
Workers who are exposed to these conditions may develop an increased risk of lung cancer after several years on the job, according to CDC statistics.
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a form of cancer that affects the lymphatic system. In this cancer, some of the cells in the bloodstream become abnormal and grow out of control. Their growth is often triggered or worsened by long-term exposure to solvents and insecticides. A number of professions are at risk for lymphoma, including painting, hairdressing, agriculture and photographic developing. Contaminants such as trichloroethylene and formaldehyde can cause severe effects on the lymphatic system. Many painters and farm workers are not sufficiently protected from the irritants that can lead to lymphatic cancer. Every person who handles noxious fumes must work with proper respiratory protection and skin coverage. If the employer is unwilling to provide protection, the worker has the right to file a complaint with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. If necessary, the worker may walk out and refuse to perform a dangerous task without proper breathing equipment.
- Radiation-related cancers
Some jobs involve long-term exposure to radiation in the workplace. X-ray technicians are exposed to high levels of cancer-causing rays on a daily basis. X-ray scanners at airports and in other public buildings can also lead to radiation-related malignancies if proper safety shields and best practices are not used at all times. High levels of ionizing radiation on the job are linked to an increased risk of bone cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer. Electromagnetic radiation on the job may lead to life-threatening cases of leukemia or thyroid cancer. Employees with job-related cancer have the right to full compensation
According to CDC statistics, at least 4 percent of all deaths from cancer in America are caused directly by occupational contact with harmful substances. Recent estimates by the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health suggest that the number of cancer deaths caused by working conditions may be even higher than the accepted figure of 4 percent. People who have developed cancer because of working conditions have the right to complete medical compensation and recovery of lost wages. Illinois workers’ compensation law provides for temporary or permanent total disability when an employee is unable to carry out job duties after a cancer diagnosis. In the tragic case of death from work-related cancer, the law requires funeral benefits and death benefits to be paid to the employee’s survivors. If an additional party is at fault for unsafe working conditions, the worker or the surviving family may also have the right to file a third-party claim for pain, suffering and further damages. People who are struggling with job-related cancer have options. They may find it useful to schedule a consultation with a worker compensation lawyer in Crystal Lake.