Workers at risk for metallic mercury exposure

Pennsylvania workers face the very real possibility of being exposed to metallic mercury. While it is a liquid at room temperature, this metal can easily be released through various equipment and become a vapor. This gas is toxic and can lead to death in cases of high-level exposure.

The California Department of Public Health warns that even having the metal come in contact with one’s skin is hazardous. The effects of chronic, low-level mercury exposure include damage to the nervous system, weakness or tremors in the limbs and anxiety. Victims may also start losing their memory.

Mercury also negatively affects a person’s reproductive functions. Women exposed to the metal run a greater risk of miscarrying or having a stillbirth. The babies may even develop birth defects.

Equipment that contains mercury ranges from heating, cooling and plumbing equipment to instruments like the blood pressure gauges used in the medical field the pressure gauges in water treatment facilities. Even fluorescent bulbs contain the substance.

The CDPH reinforces the need for proper employee training. Workers must know how to check their mercury-containing equipment for damage and then have it repaired or replaced when necessary. Individuals should be careful when handling such equipment and try to minimize their use of dangerous instruments to begin with.

The workers’ compensation program can provide benefits to people who have been adversely affected by chemical exposure on the job. Though workers do not need to prove that their employers failed to protect them adequately from mercury to have a valid case, employers retain the right to contest a claim and deny payment. Therefore, victims may want a lawyer to help them navigate the complexities and file any appeals that must be made.