While some toxic substances encountered in the work place have their own distinct warning properties, the fine dust particles resulting from work with asbestos, beryllium, lead, silica and other minerals used in industry are often present in harmful but invisible concentrations in the air. In contrast to toxic substances that have their own distinct odors, colors and physical forms constituting inherent warning properties, the dust created by the use of these minerals is odorless, tasteless and invisible.
Harmful concentrations of asbestos, benzene, lead, silica and other mineral dusts cannot be detected in a work place situation by normal unaided human eyesight under typical indoor lighting conditions. The human eye, cannot, in fact, detect particles that are sufficiently small to enter the respiratory system where they become trapped deep inside the lung.
Experts in the field of industrial hygiene have known for more than six decades that harmful concentrations of airborne dust and fumes are not always visible to the naked eye, nor can they be detected by any unusual odor or taste. The only method to alert workers under these conditions to the presence of hazardous concentrations of airborne dust and fumes is to employ appropriate industrial hygiene air sampling techniques and to make the results of those tests available to workers in the work place.
If you have questions about the safety of your work place or are concerned about the use of minerals such as asbestos, beryllium, lead or silica, contact your union health and safety representative or your employer. The OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) requires that manufacturers of hazardous substances provide a copy of a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to their customers along with the product. MSDSs must describe the hazards posed by these substances and ways workers can be protected from exposure. You have the right to information about toxic substances used in your work place. For further information, please contact the attorneys at Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford.