At the Law Office of Michael R. De La Paz in California, we know the many dangers and hazards you face as an oil and gas worker. In addition to the ever-present dangers of fires, explosions and blowouts, you likewise face exposure to a variety of chemicals on a daily basis.
As set forth by Code Red Safety, here are the top four chemicals that pose the greatest risks to your health.
1. Hydrogen Sulfide
You know your job site exposes you to Hydrogen Sulfide if you smell the odor of rotten eggs while working. This colorless flammable gas is highly toxic at extremely low concentrations. Unfortunately, H2S is a byproduct of natural gas purification and crude oil refinement. Heavier than air, it tends to accumulate in the low-lying areas of your job site, but pockets of it can occur anywhere. Depending on the H2S concentration in the air you breathe, you can suffer the following:
- Irritation of your eyes, nose and throat
- Constriction of your bronchial tubes with consequent breathing difficulties
- Headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting
- Paralysis of your olfactory nerves
- Permanent damage to your central nervous system
- Shock, convulsions, coma and death
Silica is the basic component of rocks and sand and therefore found in concrete, cement, mortar, fill dirt, topsoil, asphalt, blasting abrasives and hydraulic fracturing sand. Prolonged silica exposure leads to silicosis, an incurable lung cancer.
Mercury is one of the natural components of both oil and gas. The liquid mercury condenses inside your job site’s valves, piping, coolers and heat exchangers. When you inhale these vapors over long periods of time, they negatively affect your central nervous system. The result can be nervousness, problems with your vision and hearing, tremors, stupor and/or personality changes. It also can cause skin and eye irritation and burning, as well as kidney damage.
4. Naturally occurring radioactive materials
NORMs, including radium, uranium, radon and thorium, reside in the earth’s crust and off-gas into the air naturally and when the ground becomes disturbed by oil and gas extraction. NORMs accumulate in the following:
- Well heads
- Gas/oil separator flow lines
- Piping runs and valves
- Dehydrators and desalinators
- Production manifolds
- Storage tanks
NORM exposure represents a life-threatening risk since breathing all of these gases can kill you within a very short period of time.
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