What is Industrial disease?
Industrial disease can be broken down into three categories:
- Building – related illnesses are readily identifiable microbe or fungi that produce actual diseases. Exposure, either one time, or on a continuous basis, to a chemical or material, is known to cause a clearly defined and identifiable illness. Symptoms may include cough, chest tightness, fever, chills, muscle aches, etc. Recovery is usually prolonged and the illness may cause death.
- Sick Building Syndrome causes no specific illness and no specific cause can be identified. However, occupants of a building may experience acute health effects that are linked to time spent in the building. Symptoms can be headache, ear/nose/throat irritation, dry/itchy skin, dizziness, nausea, and difficulty concentrating. However, once the individuals leave the building, their symptoms subside. This can be cause by inadequate ventilation and airtight buildings, chemical contaminants from cleaning agents, carpet, adhesives, upholstery, manufactured wood products, office equipment, pesticides, vehicle exhausts, plumbing vents, building exhausts or bacteria, mold, pollen and viruses.
- Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) refers to multiple symptoms affecting multiple organs that wax and wane in response to multiple chemical exposures at or below previously tolerated levels. Individuals become ill because the body cannot detoxify and eliminate chemicals as fast as they enter the system. The chemicals are then stored in fatty tissues such as the heart, liver and brain.
Symptoms include, but are not limited to, brain fog, fatigue, mood swings, pain, memory loss, inability to concentrate, chest pains, headaches, visual disturbances, rashes, hair loss, vertigo, asthma and flu-like symptoms that will not go away. MCS can be caused by chemical injury or chronic exposure. Often there is an overlap between symptoms of MCS, fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Gulf War Syndrome so that diagnosis can be difficult.
Are there standards for air quality to protect me?
The federal government has no effective standards for indoor air quality in offices. The Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) has standards that are supposed to protect workers against individual contaminants such as benzene and formaldehyde, both carcinogens. But those standards were set for industrial workplaces and have been force-fit to apply to white-collar offices.
What should I do if I suspect that my office building is making me ill?
First, you should see a doctor who can make a medical diagnosis. Second, if your doctor believes your illness is related to your work, you should advise your employer, either through your personnel department or your immediate supervisor. You must report your illness as soon as you know that it is work-related, otherwise you may be barred from filing a claim for benefits. Finally, you should contact one of our industrial disease and mold attorneys to discuss your rights under the New Jersey workers’ compensation laws.