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Working with asphalt: Hazards from fumes

Working in San Diego, you're exposed to all kinds of hazards. The one you didn't think would impact you was the asphalt you were working with. It didn't seem harmful, but over time, you've noticed that you've been getting more headaches and have coughed more than usual.

If you are working with bitumen, the issue could be the fumes you're exposed to. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that over 500,000 workers are exposed to fumes from asphalt. OSHA standards aren't specific when it comes to asphalt fumes, and though it's recognized as a hazard, people can still work around it without masks or other personal protective equipment.

What are the possible health effects from exposure to bitumen?

  • Fatigue
  • Throat and eye irritation
  • Skin cancer
  • Cough
  • Sensitization
  • Skin rashes
  • Headaches
  • Reduced appetite

If you do need to work with bitumen, it's a good idea to wear a mask or other equipment that will reduce your exposure level. Some people may never notice the fumes, but others will be sensitive to them and could end up developing serious health conditions as a result.

What should you do if you suffer from health issues while working with asphalt?

Go to the hospital or your medical provider as soon as you can. It's important that you find out if the asphalt is playing a role in your health issues. If it is, then it may be important for you to get new personal protective equipment, to take time away from work or to train for a new position entirely. Workers' compensation may be there to help support anything that needs to happen next as a result of your illness.

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