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N-propyl bromide sickens some furniture workers in North Carolina

Many residents of North Carolina find it necessary to work to get by. Because so many individuals must head off to a job each day it is fortunate that there are many options when it comes to choosing an occupation. For some residents of North Carolina, the furniture industry fills that void. While the fact that such jobs are available is a wonderful thing, not all who work in the industry have a good experience. These are people who have suffered an injury after becoming ill while working with a chemical used on furniture cushions.

The chemical is called n-propyl bromide. Also known as nPB, it has apparently caused nerve damage in many workers manifesting itself in the inability of workers to do such things as easily stand or walk. In some cases numbness in their hands may be present as well. It may also lead to infertility.

Some readers of this blog may be aware that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is responsible for keeping workers safe in workplaces throughout the nation. It is likely that some of those readers may be wondering why OSHA allows such a substance to be used in workplaces such as furniture manufacturing. The answer is quite simply that because it has yet to create any standard regarding acceptable levels of the chemical in workplace. Until it does, they do not have any way of forcing employers to comply.

While workers who become ill while working are probably happy that workers' compensation benefits can usually be sought, most would likely prefer that their workplace take the steps necessary to keep individuals working there from becoming sick. For businesses that do not take those steps on their own, OSHA regulations could help to make that happen.

Source: New York Times, "As OSHA Emphasizes Safety, Long-Term Health Risks Fester," Ian Urbina, March 30, 2013

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