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Waste Disposal Workers: Why Are Injury and Illness Rates So High?

Waste disposal workers have one of the most dangerous, physically-demanding jobs in the United States. Not only are they required to operate industrial-grade equipment routinely, but they are also exposed to numerous toxins, pollutants, and chemical contaminants daily. This repeated exposure can lead to several long-term, life-threatening illnesses.

According to a report from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the injury and illness rate for waste disposal workers is almost two times higher than any other occupation in America. From 2017 to 2018, occupational injuries and illnesses for waste management workers increased from 116.9 thousand to 118.6 thousand.

In a 2017 study published in Occupational Medicine, researchers found that “rates of fatal, non-fatal injuries and self-reported work-related illness were found to be higher in the waste and recycling sector than in [the work] industry as a whole.”

Some of the most common illnesses for waste disposal workers include:

  • Extrinsic allergic alveolitis – A respiratory condition caused by the regular inhalation of organic dust, typically within a work setting.
  • Aspergillosis – A type of fungal infection caused by repeated exposure to the fungus Aspergillus, located in waste disposal settings
  • Occupational asthma – Asthma caused by the repeated inhalation of irritants such as toxic vapors, specks of dust, or gases
  • Abnormalities of lung function – There are a wide range of lung conditions that can cause abnormal functionality, such as diseases, viruses, irritations, and infections
  • Lead poisoning and exposure to other heavy metals – Exposure to heavy metals, such as lead and mercury, have been linked to DNA damage and congenital disabilities

Unfortunately, protective respiratory gear for waste disposal workers isn’t enforced throughout the United States. When the protective equipment is worn, it is typically very minimal. Industry professionals agree that the waste disposal sector still has much room for improvement when it comes to protecting workers from occupational hazards.

Contact a New York Toxic Exposure Workplace Attorney

Employers have a responsibility to protect their workers from known occupational hazards. If you or someone you love has become injured or ill due to exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace, the workplace injury attorneys of Hach & Rose, LLP will be ready to help you get justice and fair compensation for the harm you’ve suffered. Call us at (212) 779-0057 or reach out online to schedule a free consultation with our team today.


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