The epidemiology of traumatic brain injury is fairly well known due to systematic data collection by state and county health departments and model TBI system centers; and due to data analysis by the federal Centers for Disease Control. This is not true of toxic exposure brain injuries. Public health officials remain under-informed about how these injuries occur, in what numbers, with what long term outcomes, and how to prevent them.
We are just beginning to recognize which workplace toxins cause cognitive, memory, vision or balance problems; but for each one, the EPA and OSHA must wrestle with the quantity issue – what level of exposure is safe, and what level is unsafe. Perhaps the one exception is lead. It has been known for decades that lead exposure can cause irreversible brain damage, the most publicized example being children in “slum dwellings” who ate the paint chips peeling from the walls which contained lead and tasted sweet.
Depending on how much they ate, these children had mild, moderate or severe cognitive impairments. In severe cases, the child would test out at the mentally retarded level. Lead was banned across the country as an ingredient in paint in 1978.
Yet the hazard remains in buildings built and painted before 1978, from water which flows through old lead pipes and sink faucets, the dust from deteriorated vinyl miniblinds and in soils near heavily traveled roads. One out of every 11 children in the U.S. has unsafe blood levels of lead. A good source of information about potential sources of lead poisoning and how to protect yourself and your children is the federal EPA. Landlords who do not give new tenants the EPA pamphlet on lead can be fined. If testing shows lead in the paint, the landlord must take reasonable measures to protect his tenants’ children.
Although scraping off all the old paint is typically not required, he could be required to cover the lead paint with wallpaper or new unleaded paint. The pamphlet can be ordered for free by calling the National Lead Information Clearinghouse at 800-424-4323. Today’s renters should request landlords to perform lead tests. Concerned home buyers should pay for their own soil testing before they sign a contract to buy a house. If your faucets are lead, use a filter on them, and let the water run for a while to flush the pipe before letting anyone drink it. Parents of children at risk for lead exposure should have their childrens’ blood tested. This is often covered by health insurance.
On 3/6/01 the strictest ever EPA lead regulations will go into effect. The final rules appear in the Jan. 5, 2001 Federal Register. One of them says that once an apartment or common area in an apartment is found to be a lead hazard, all other apartments or common areas are deemed to be a lead hazard without the need for specific proof. Another says that the presence of “any deteriorated lead-based paint” in dirt, soil or paint, constitutes a “hazard.” The new regulations will promote safety by imposing on affirmative obligation to assess and abate the lead hazard, and by defining the hazard in pro-consumer terms.
Brain injury from exposure to toxins other than lead has been documented in railway workers exposed to cleaning solvents. According to the Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky, approximately 600 railway workers have been diagnosed with “toxic encephalopathy” from handling degreasing solvents such as trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene, resulting in many brain injury lawsuits.
The suits claim workers were not given adequate respiratory protection or shop ventilation and were not warned they could develop decreased mental function. The Courier-Journal reports that CSX has settled a significant number of claims, and claims are currently pending against Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern and Burlington Northern Sante Fe, as of June 2001.
If you have suffered a serious head injury call (877)-833-1168 or contact us at info@HeadInjuryLaw.com to find a Traumatic Brain Injury Attorney to fight for the compensation you deserve.