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Home > Personal Injury > Industrial Diseases > Personal injury caused by exposure to dioxins

Personal injury caused by exposure to dioxins

The health risks of pesticides

In very small amounts, dioxins are harmless. But they can be very harmful if you are in contact with a large number of dioxins or exposure over a prolong period of time. Most people will be exposed to a small amount of dioxins in their lifetime as we are surrounded by them. They are ingested when we eat animal fats, or animal-fat by-products.

Please select one of the links below to see how Clear Answers specialist industrial disease lawyers may be able to help you make a claim for personal injury compensation.

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Exposure to dioxins

Exposure to dioxins can cause a variety of serious injuries or illnesses. These can include birth deformities, abortions, a skin complaint (chloracne) and general disruption of biological mechanisms, skin and eye problems, darkened skin colouration, swollen eyelids, vomiting, diarrhoea, anaemia, lung infections, effects on the nervous system and mild changes to the liver.

Dioxins can also form in the environment as a result of the combustion of industrial and domestic waste and can escape into the atmosphere through the operation of incinerators and waste disposal plant.

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Clear Answers’ specialist personal injury lawyers

If you have been unfortunate enough to suffer dioxin poisoning, Clear Answers’ personal injury advice solicitors specialise in all types of industrial injury claims, but have particular experience in dealing with compensation claims involving exposure to hazardous substances.

Strict time limits apply for making a personal injury compensation claim, so please seek expert legal advice as soon as you think you may have a valid claim for compensation.

Please visit our section on information and advice for more details on making a personal injury compensation claim.

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Chemical and biological characteristics of dioxins

There are several hundred chemicals in existence which have similar chemical and biological characteristics. They have been given the name dioxins but can be split into three main groups under that main name.

Chlorinated dibenzofurans (CDFs)

CDF's are not intentionally manufactured but are created through industrial processes e.g. through certain chlorine bleaching processes at paper mills and at drinking water treatment plants.

Exposure can also occur as a result of consuming food contaminated with CDF’s, breathing air or drinking water that has been contaminated or coming into contact with contaminated soil, using compounds and products such as milk cartons, coffee filters and tampons albeit that there may be relatively low exposures through this source unless exposure is in an industrial setting.

Chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (CDDs)

CDDs such as tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), which is the most studied of these chemicals, are also not intentionally manufactured but are created through industrial processes e.g. through certain chlorine bleaching processes at paper mills and at drinking water treatment plants.

CDDs are also produced during the manufacture of other chemicals (e.g. pesticides), by industrial and household waste incinerators and from burning fuels like wood, coal or oil. The burning of wood or timber treated with preservatives can cause a harmful release of these dioxins.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)

PCBs are manufactured and are used as coolants and lubricants in transformers for hydraulic mining machinery and some electrical and heating equipment. They are difficult to destroy and linger in the environment for years.

Dioxins can also be created from natural sources such as forest fires and volcanic eruptions.

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Dioxin poisoning

The precise consequences of exposure will depend on how much of the chemical enters the body, how the exposure occurred, and the length of time over which the exposure took place.

If you work in an industry where dioxins are used, or emitted, such as in the production of pesticides, dioxin poisoning can occur when you breathe in contaminated dust. You can also suffer dioxin poisoning through ingesting the contaminated dust or through skin contact.

Other areas where you may be exposed to risk of dioxin poisoning are in paper or pulp mills, at incinerator plants, or even where pesticides are used in an agricultural situation.

Recycling plant workers may also be at risk of dioxin poisoning if aluminium or copper is being recycled.

Firefighters too may be exposed to dioxin poisoning when attending fires in certain situations, for example, attending transformer fires.

If employees are dealing with dangerous dioxins without training on how to handle these toxic chemicals, they may be at risk of dioxin poisoning, as well as being exposed through failure to provide the necessary protective clothing.

Even members of the public can be at risk if the industrial waste containing dioxins is allowed to be pumped into the sea or rivers, or disposed of on land sites or allowed to disperse into the air.

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Symptoms and treatment of dioxin poisoning

Following exposure to dioxins, the immediate symptoms can include severe abdominal pains, vomiting and nausea, but in the long-term, a skin condition called ‘chloracne’ can occur if the exposure involves very high doses. This will generally cause acne-like lesions to appear on the face and upper body, and the skin may also be affected by rashes, discolouration and excessive body hair. This is a very serious skin disease.

Metabolic and hormonal changes can also result from high doses of the chemical and in some instances kidney damage can occur.

Male infertility and fatal illnesses such as cancer have also been linked to dioxins, and because they remain in the body for long periods, it may be some time before the effects of dioxin poisoning become apparent.

Once diagnosed by blood tests to measure the level of dioxins in the blood, treatment can be given for the various effects. Depending on the state of advancement of the dioxin poisoning, it is possible to treat skin conditions, address liver damage and lower the level of dioxins in the blood.

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Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations

The CoSHH Regulations were put in place to protect workers from exposure to chemicals and other substances in the workplace. Under these regulations, employers have a duty to manage work activities to eliminate exposure but failing that to control and reduce exposure to dioxins to as low a level as is practically possible.

Employers should carry out risk assessments and take appropriate protective steps to safeguard workers health, including the removal of the hazard completely and, failing that, to safely control and reduce any potential exposure to the chemicals. The use of protective gloves, goggles, respiratory protection and protective clothing are to be the last resort.

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Evidence of dioxin poisoning

If you or anyone you know has been injured or contracted an illness or disease as a direct result of coming into contact with dioxins, you may wish to contact a lawyer for some claim advice. In the meantime however, it is important that you retain any evidence you may have which supports your exposure and ensure that when you visit your GP or hospital for treatment you mention the cause of your injury to your doctor.

If you can safely retain labels, packaging or other manufacturers or suppliers data sheets and usage instructions, so as to identify the chemicals involved, this is very helpful.

Also remember to retain evidence of any injury-related expenses such as receipts for prescriptions or medication and evidence of travelling expenses.

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Personal injury news stories

Clear Answers' personal injury solicitors deal with a large number of industrial disease compensation claims each year, including those resulting from negligent exposure to hazardous substances such as dioxins. Please visit our Personal Injury News Section to view details of these stories and other successful personal injury compensation claims that Clear Answers’ solicitors have been involved in.

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Making a personal injury claim for dioxin poisoning

Whether your personal injury was caused by an accident at work or in a public place, you may still be entitled to make a claim. Providing it can be proven that your injury was caused by your exposure to the hazardous substance and the person or company who allowed you to come into contact with the chemical was negligent or in breach of applicable statutory regulations, then your claim for compensation should be valid.

Clear Answers’ lawyers are experts in all personal injury matters. We will be able to advise you whether or not you have a valid claim for compensation. Our specialist industrial disease lawyers will be happy to talk you through the process of making a claim in plain English and will be happy to answer any questions or queries you may have.

Telephone us now on 0800 783 9019 or complete one of our online compensation claim forms and one of our representatives will contact you as soon as possible.

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