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Bronx Personal Injury & Real Estate Blog

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Is Your Workplace Making You Sick?

If you are a generally healthy, energetic person, but experience symptoms of ill health while at work, you may be working in a toxic environment. While the term “toxic workplace” is now more frequently used to describe an atmosphere of discrimination or harassment, what we are discussing here is an environment that is contaminated enough to cause staff members serious physical symptoms.

If you are being sickened by your workplace and your employer is failing to address the issue, you need the services of a seasoned personal injury attorney with experience in toxic tort litigation. If you are located in the Bronx, the Law Office of Ryan S. Goldstein PLLC is here to help.

Sick Building Syndrome

In the 1970s, buildings known to sicken their inhabitants began to be known as “sick buildings,” meaning that they had been found to contain airborne contaminants, toxins, or germs, either in their structural materials, furnishings, or circulating air.

For employees who were factory workers, office managers, salespeople, or members of the cleaning crew, the possibility that sick buildings were potentially responsible for their illnesses was being recognized. This perception came as it was realized that when a great many people working under one roof are plagued by similar symptoms, it is not a coincidence and cannot be explained away as allergies or idiosyncratic reactions.

Toxic work environments are often difficult to detect; symptoms may come on gradually or vary from person to person. For this reason, and because companies are always looking to protect their bottom line, many employers resist investigating such problems. As a result, some workers have gotten very sick and, though they have complained loudly and persistently about the toxic work environment, have been ignored. If you are in this situation, it is essential that you contact a toxic tort attorney with a record of successful litigation.

Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome

The Environmental Protection Agency has designated the following symptoms as potentially caused by sick building syndrome (SBS):

  • Headache
  • Chest tightness and breathing difficulties
  • Fever, chills, and/or muscle aches
  • Dry coughs or sneezing
  • Dry, itchy skin or rashes
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Upset stomach
  • Eye, nose or throat irritation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sensitivity to odors
  • Fatigue

When you see these symptoms listed it becomes apparent how they can be successfully ignored for relatively long periods of time since they are commonplace in the population at large and can be caused by any number of illnesses or chronic conditions. Nonetheless, when multiple employees not previously symptomatic begin suffering bad headaches or dry coughs, it is incumbent on management to investigate.

Causes of Sick Building Syndrome

It is frightening to become aware that workplace friends and colleagues may share your symptoms not because “there is a bug going around the office,” but because the place you all work is contaminated with one of the following toxins:

  • Bacteria or viruses
  • Mold or mildew
  • Paint
  • Formaldehyde
  • Exhaust
  • Adhesives
  • Pesticides
  • Volatile organic compounds (e.g. carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide)

In 1984, the World Health Organization estimated that as many as one-third of new and remodeled buildings worldwide might be the cause of complaints about indoor air quality, attributable to inadequate ventilation due to improper air vents and fans.

Pinpointing SBS as the Cause of Employee Illness

Although sometimes a pollutant becomes suddenly apparent, for example if a painfully noxious smell permeates the room, very often the toxins affecting the workplace staff are subtle, having a cumulative effect. The threat to your ongoing health, however, is very real.

Whether several employees experience similar symptoms on the same day, or cases build during a period of weeks, the fact that workers feel sicker at work than at home is a strong clue that the source of trouble is the workplace. Similarly, if employees feel the need to go and get “a breath of fresh air” much more frequently, complain of dizziness, nausea, or one of the other symptoms listed above, or are more fatigued or distracted than usual, attention should be paid by the powers that be. The biggest red flag that there is an office contaminant present is that the affected parties recover rapidly when they leave the building.

How a Skilled Toxic Tort Attorney Can Help You Keep Your Job and Protect Your Health

Unfortunately, money is the only language some employers understand, so filing a toxic tort lawsuit may be the only way you can effectively get their attention. With the determined support of Ryan S. Goldstein, even just the threat of litigation may be enough to move your employer to negotiate a deal that includes paying you damages for your medical costs and pain and remediating the problem with the sick building as per OSHA requirements.


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