Chemicals at work can create a huge health risk for workers, who may not even consider that they could develop a life-threatening disease. While some of these chemicals emit odors that could tip a worker off, others are odorless, invisible, or contained in common products, such as paint, causing workers to not even realize that they are risking their lives. One danger they face in many industries is developing toxic hepatitis.

Toxic hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by intentionally or unintentionally inhaling or consuming chemicals. While it can be caused by alcoholism, medications, or certain herbal supplements, it can also develop from exposure to harmful chemicals in the workplace. Some of these substances include:

  • The dry cleaning solvent carbon tetrachloride
  • Vinyl chloride used to make plastics
  • The herbicide paraquat
  • PCBs found in electrical systems, paints, oil, tape, and many other products
  • Arsenic
  • Lubricants
  • Paints

Symptoms Workers Need to Watch for

Employees in many industries—such as factory work, vehicle repair, construction, painting, landscaping, and dry cleaning—are exposed to hazardous chemicals that could lead to toxic hepatitis. Toxic hepatitis develops over time, and a person may not have any warning signs of this life-threatening disease. However, symptoms workers could exhibit include the following:

  • Itching
  • Jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
  • Abdominal pain located in the upper right portion of the abdomen
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Skin rashes
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Changes in urine color to dark or tea-colored

Three Treatments for Toxic Hepatitis

Unfortunately, treatment options are limited for toxic hepatitis. A worker suffering with this could receive the following types of medical care:

  • Stopping exposure to the chemical. Once a doctor determines what chemical is causing the toxic hepatitis, stopping exposure to this harmful substance can help relieve the person’s symptoms.
  • Hospital care. A person with serious symptoms could need to be hospitalized to receive intravenous fluids (IV) and medication to stop the vomiting and nausea.
  • Liver transplant. If the damage to the person’s liver is severe, his only option may be to undergo a liver transplant—if a compatible donor can be found.

Workers who develop toxic hepatitis from exposure to workplace chemicals may be entitled to compensation under New Jersey’s workers’ compensation. However, they may have to fight to receive the benefits they are entitled to. If you have developed this disease from your job, start learning about your legal rights by ordering our FREE electronic book, What the Injured Worker Needs to Know. Your Workers’ Comp Guide.

Manfred Ricciardelli
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Morristown Workers' Compensation Lawyer