Houston Shipyard Workers Face Increased Risk of Cadmium Exposure
In Houston, many men and women make their living in the maritime industry, repairing and building ships in the many shipyards on our coastline. It hardly takes an industry expert to know that this is extraordinarily dangerous work—extreme heights, tight spaces, and metal work abound, not to mention highly-strenuous physical work.
Some of the most dangerous aspects of work in shipyards and the maritime industry, however, remain largely unseen. Hazardous materials and chemicals, including benzene and asbestos, are often found at worksites, and employers and workers alike must remain in a state of constant vigilance to respirable particulates, air quality, and exposure risks.
Cadmium: Deadly Metal
One of the “sneakier” toxic materials in the maritime industry is cadmium, a metal most commonly found in zinc ores. While cadmium, like asbestos, has seen a decline in production, its use in ships, as well as batteries and solar panels, may once again cause a rise in demand.
Cadmium is an extremely potent carcinogen, known to cause kidney and lung diseases and cancers, and well as cardiovascular, neurological, reproductive, and gastrointestinal cancers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has estimated that upwards of 300,000 American workers are exposed to cadmium, often in shipyards.
Exposure often occurs during metalwork, such as welding and machining, as well as during painting. Skin contact, inhalation, and ingestion of cadmium are among the methods by which workers are exposed to hazardous levels of the metal.
What Is Your Employer Required to Do?
At the most basic level, employers must provide employees with a workplace reasonably free of unmitigated hazards. Regarding cadmium specifically, there are many control options available for employers to act on. Those include:
- Eliminate cadmium altogether. This is the preferred method, as it is the safest. This can be accomplished by employing suitable substitutes for the metal when available. While difficult to achieve, this is arguably the only truly foolproof method to avoid exposure.
- Engineering controls. This might include ventilation systems or limiting your time working in potentially hazardous exposure situations.
- Personal Protective Equipment. The final, and least effective, measure is to offer PPE, including respirators and protective clothing.
Have You Been Harmed by Shipyard Cadmium Exposure?
If you have worked in one of Houston’s numerous shipyards, or on a ship offshore, you may have been exposed to cadmium. If you suspect that your illness is the result of workplace cadmium exposure, you may be entitled to compensation—contact our firm today to discuss your case by calling or filling out our short online contact form.