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Worker claims toxic exposure caused occupational illness

Iowa workers may recall news of a massive coal ash spill in another state during 2009 and 2010 that took six years and $1.2 billion to clean up. Many workers have developed medical problems that may have been caused by an apparent lack of protection against toxic exposure. Former workers said that the hazards were hardly ever mentioned, and when supervisors were questioned, one allegedly said that it was so safe that even eating two pounds of ash a day would cause no harm.

A backhoe operator, who worked on the site for a year, reported his health deteriorating since the days when he was pushing piles of ash to collect for transport to a landfill. At first, he blamed his habit of smoking; however, when his vision became dull and his constant coughing produced blood, he visited a clinic. Urine samples were tested and the results identified 11 different types of metal in his system. Alarmingly high levels of uranium, mercury and lead were included.

An environmental toxicologist and biologist who worked as part of a research team said the most alarming fact was that, along with 17 metals, the ash contained cenospheres. These are little fragile balls -- containing Silica, aluminum, iron oxide and arsenic -- that break into tiny, shards similar to hollow Christmas decorations. While the sharp edges of the fragments can cause severe damage to the inside of workers' lungs, the toxic metals can exacerbate the damage.

In many cases, toxic exposure becomes evident in time -- often years after the worker was exposed. Indeed, the worker may no longer be in the employ of the company where the exposure occurred. While victims are entitled to pursue compensation through the Iowa workers' compensation insurance program, it may be a difficult process. For this reason, many victims choose to retain the services of an experienced workers' compensation attorney to navigate the claims proceedings for them and to assess all of their legal rights.

Source: allgov.com, "Former Tennessee Dam Workers Claim Toxic Coal Ash Caused Illnesses", Kristen Lombardi, July 26, 2016

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