Texas’s continued oil and gas boom has led to many employment opportunities. But it has also put many at risk for chemical exposure. Workers frequently encounter a variety of chemicals, some of which can pose serious health risks as they are absorbed through the skin or inhaled. Chemical exposure symptoms vary depending on the chemical type, ranging from dizziness and headaches to respiratory issues and burns.
Understanding the signs and symptoms of chemical exposure is essential, as seeking early medical treatment could improve your prognosis. If you work in the oilfield industry and think you are suffering from complications of chemical exposure, read on to learn more. If you have questions or would like to speak with a Houston oilfield accident lawyer, please contact us today.
Symptoms of Chemical Exposure
Here’s a look at some of the common symptoms we see in cases involving chemical exposure:
- Respiratory Issues. Difficulty breathing, coughing, and throat irritation can point to exposure to airborne chemicals.
- Skin Reactions. Contact with certain chemicals can cause rashes, burns, or other skin irritations.
- Eye Irritation. Chemical vapors or splashes can lead to eye redness, pain, or vision problems.
- Neurological Symptoms. Some chemical exposure can result in headaches, dizziness, and tremors or seizures.
- Gastrointestinal Issues. Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain can occur, especially with ingestion or severe inhalation of chemicals.
Some types of exposure may not lead to noticeable symptoms until you or a loved one receives a diagnosis of an illness, cancer, or even congenital disabilities.
Common Chemicals Found in the Oilfield Industry
The oilfield environment exposes workers to a variety of hazardous chemicals, each of which poses distinct health risks. Some of the most common chemicals include the following:
- Petroleum gasses. These gasses contain toxins, such as butane, benzene, and methane, and can typically be found around oil storage tanks. In large doses, they can kill you. In smaller amounts, they can lead to permanent damage.
- Diesel exhaust. Equipment and trucks found at extraction sites run on diesel. Regular exposure to these fumes emits particles and chemicals that can cause headaches, nose and eye irritation, nausea, and respiratory diseases.
- Hydrogen sulfide. Decaying organic matter causes hydrogen sulfide, which is released during oil and gas extraction. In minor exposure cases, you might have severe eye and skin irritation. In larger doses of exposure, it’s deadly.
- Mercury vapor. Oil naturally contains mercury, which accumulates in oil pipes and processing equipment. Mercury exposure might not be noticeable initially, but long-term exposure can lead to nervous system issues, including blindness, hearing loss, tremors, and even personality changes.
- Other naturally occurring radioactive materials. The earth’s crust contains radioactive materials. Drilling fluids or oil brine can be present in storage tanks, wellheads, and more.
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are naturally occurring chemicals in crude oil, coal, and gas. They can be carcinogenic, especially in unborn babies and pregnant people.
- Silica. Silica is known to cause silicosis, a fatal lung disease. The release of fine particles that are invisible to the eye happens during the hydraulic fracturing of sand and when the sand is loaded, unloaded, stored, or moved.
- Petroleum coke. Petcoke occurs as an oil processing by-product of tar sands. When burned, it can release significantly more CO2, which is harmful.
It is important to note that some chemicals can travel on a worker’s clothing, making family members sick. Chemical exposure can also affect people who are not connected to the oil industry at all. There’s a cancer risk for Texas residents from air pollution, too. Children are especially affected and can develop respiratory issues like asthma. The Clean Air Task Force has confirmed that over 900 schools in Texas are located within one-half mile of gas and oil operations.
Chronic Exposure and Long-Term Effects
Chronic exposure to certain chemicals can lead to severe health issues. Some potential illnesses and injuries include the following:
- Cancer. Long-term exposure to carcinogens like benzene is a known risk factor for various types of cancer.
- Neurological disorders. Long-term exposure can result in lasting neurological damage and cognitive impairments.
- Reproductive health issues. Some chemicals affect reproductive health, potentially causing infertility or congenital disabilities.
If you work in the oil and gas industry, and you or someone in your family starts feeling ill, it’s crucial to see a doctor to rule out chemical exposure as the cause.
Preventive Measures in the Workplace
Preventing the fallout of chemical exposure is critical. Employers must provide adequate protective equipment, conduct regular training, and ensure proper handling and storage of chemicals. Monitoring air quality and conducting health screenings can also help in early detection and prevention. Texas workers’ compensation can provide some benefits in certain situations, but proving your symptoms are work related is always a challenge. It’s important to note that Texas does not mandate employers to provide workers’ compensation coverage.
Who Is Responsible for Your Chemical Exposure Symptoms?
Understandably, one of the most common questions is, Can I sue my employer for chemical exposure? Suing your employer depends on a few things, including whether they have workers’ compensation. If your employer offers workers’ compensation, you cannot technically sue them directly. However, you can sue a third party if they have some liability for your injuries. If your employer does not offer workers’ compensation, you can file a chemical exposure lawsuit against them.
Why You Should Hire a Texas Chemical Exposure Lawyer
Laws that apply to chemical exposure cases can be complicated to understand. You need an experienced oil and gas injury lawyer who can pursue compensation on your behalf. Workers who work on offshore oil rigs might have different laws that offer some protections, such as the Jones Act. This law allows an offshore oil rig worker to sue their employer directly because workers’ compensation does not cover them.
Should a loved one working on an offshore oil rig pass away from their chemical exposure illness, the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) might apply. This federal law applies to a wrongful death over three nautical miles from the U.S. coastline.
Contact a Texas Oil Chemical Exposure Lawyer at Armstrong Lee & Baker LLP
If you have any chemical exposure symptoms, seek treatment right away. Then, please speak with one of our skilled Houston oilfield lawyers to discuss your legal options. We have many years of experience representing clients who have suffered injuries or occupational illnesses from work in the oil and gas industry. Our lawyers are committed to getting justice for workers and their families. We know this is a terrifying and stressful time. Let us be your legal advocate while you concentrate on your health and family. You do not need the added stress of battling insurance companies and possibly your employer on top of your health concerns. Let us fight for your rights and help you pursue the maximum compensation possible for chemical exposure symptoms. Contact our office today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.