The air they breathe: toxic fumes in the oil and gas industries

Breathing may be a function that most people take for granted, but when a Texas oil field employee is on the job, the air may not be fit to take in. According to Oilpro, one of the chemicals that these workers are typically exposed to while working on rigs or in processing plants is hydrogen sulfide. Long-term contact with the fumes can lead to a number of types of injuries, as well as fatalities.

The external results of this dangerous chemical exposure could cause skin issues, such as burns, and it could also affect the eyes. When the fumes enter the body through the respiratory system, the toxins could cause a variety of cancers, including leukemia. Headaches, nausea and dizziness are common, and a worker could become paralyzed from the fumes, which are also associated with serious brain issues.

The Denver Post reports that there are regulations enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that are in place to protect oil field workers. However, respiratory equipment to prevent the inhalation of dangerous chemicals is not required, in spite of the fact that at least ten fatalities in recent years have been attributed to hydrocarbon poisoning. While some companies may provide the respirators and other protective equipment, many workers must provide their own, or go without.

Because safety equipment is not mandatory, even after an employee’s death, the company may not be cited or fined by OSHA. Some families have filed lawsuits in an attempt to hold companies liable for the failure to protect their loved ones from their preventable and untimely deaths.

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