California workers in a wide range of industries need to be careful around metallic mercury. As a liquid at room temperature, mercury can easily evaporate into a toxic vapor, and the California Department of Public Health says that exposure to this can lead to serious health problems. Even getting it on one’s skin will be harmful.
In particular, low-level exposure to mercury vapors over a long period of time can lead to nerve damage as well as the development of tremors, anxiety and memory loss. It also affects the reproductive function in men and women. Women affected by mercury exposure may go on to have a baby, but there will be a higher risk of that baby being miscarried, stillborn or born with birth defects.
Mercury can be released from equipment like fluorescent light bulbs and gauges, especially pressure gauges at water treatment facilities and blood pressure gauges used by doctors and nurses. Plumbing, heating and air conditioning equipment can contain it as well.
Whenever possible, workers should not use equipment containing mercury. If they must, they should regularly inspect the equipment for damage, repairing or replacing it whenever they do find any.
Employees who are injured through mercury exposure can seek workers’ compensation benefits, which usually provide wage replacement and cover medical expenses, including the cost of treatments, prescription drugs and travel to and from the hospital. Those who have been partially or totally disabled may be compensated for this as well.
Unlike with a personal injury claim, those who file a workers’ compensation claim do not need to prove that their employer or anyone else was negligent. However, employers may deny payment if workers themselves were to blame. For advice and guidance on their case, victims may want to hire a lawyer.