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Are construction workers exposed to toxic chemicals?

If you are a construction worker in Iowa, you are likely concerned about the possibilities of falls and injuries, but there are other dangers of which you might be unaware. Construction sites are not normally thought of as a place for deadly toxic exposure, but the chemicals used in the equipment and materials can be a silent killer.


The Iowa Department of Public Health claims that the inhalation or skin absorption of a metal called cadmium can lead to serious injuries or even death. Research shows that cadmium poisoning has a mortality rate of 15 percent and survivors are often left with persistent lung problems. If construction sites do not input protective measures to prevent the inhalation of and contact with the metal, find a substitute or in some other way protect workers, daily exposure can lead to devastating consequences.


The highest risk occurs for those involved in manufacturing and construction fields. Exposure can occur during the refining and smelting of metals, recycling of electronics or during the manufacture of batteries. Some paints contain cadmium and removing them through blasting or scraping can also present a hazard. Workers can be exposed to the chemical in several different forms, including mists, dusts and fumes, as it can exist in other metals and common construction materials. Exposure can also occur when cadmium deposits on clothing and makes contact with other people outside of the job site.


Once cadmium enters your body, it targets the respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, renal and neurological systems. It has also been known to cause cancer, but the first symptoms may resemble the flu, with acute pulmonary edema developing in one to three days. If you are poisoned and survive, your symptoms should resolve within a week.

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