By Gregory A. Cade
Only a few weeks have passed since we began to truly feel the consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) and hospitals and have faced enormous pressure to meet the ongoing demand for medical services. However, in the midst of this crisis, there is a group of people who need, perhaps more than anyone, to be protected from potential infections with new corona viruses (SARS-CoV-2): veterans and former industrial workers, especially those who are based on the nature of their work was subjected to toxic exposure. Most people who enter this group not only have advanced age, but most likely they also suffer from serious chronic respiratory disease or even various types of cancer, especially lung cancer.
Why Are Veterans and Former Industrial Workers More Vulnerable Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Like other concerned citizens, I have read so much about coronavirus outbreaks over the past few weeks, every day, with increasing anticipation for finding signs of help. Nonetheless, it seems we may be required to fight this invisible enemy over the coming months and the worst part is that it attacks us where it hurts most – at the heart of our health system that is struggling to cope with the increasing number of patients while medical supplies and staff become rare.
This is not the time to be sick and require hospitalization even though you are young and healthy, especially if you already suffer from a chronic illness. In my work, I often meet people who suffer from life-threatening conditions such as lung cancer, testicular cancer, asthma, COPD, and the thought of seeing them exposed to coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) respiratory syndrome like other destroyed individuals.
Only by doing their work, thousands of people have been exposed to dangerous substances that can trigger chronic and life-threatening diseases such as lung cancer. We call this work exposure and can occur in a variety of industries which imply a variety of toxic agents. Some of the most common industrial workers who are often diagnosed with chronic diseases are paper mill workers, miners, chemical factory workers, steel industry workers, construction workers, textile industry workers or automotive workers.
Veterans serving various branches of the US military, especially those serving in the Navy / Marines, can be exposed to large amounts of asbestos and as a result, develop various types of cancer or lung disease.
When it comes to toxic substances that trigger disease, this also varies greatly. However, some cases of toxic exposure are most often associated with:
– Asbestos: a naturally occurring toxic mineral that has been highly used in most industries until 1980.
– AFFF (or film-forming foam) which is a fire-suppressing foam that contains PFAS chemicals, known as carcinogens and can cause testicular cancer, kidney cancer, neuroendocrine tumors, pancreatic cancer.
– Coke oven emissions: people working in industries related to steel, coal tar, aluminum iron, or construction, among others, may have been exposed to large amounts of coke oven emissions which are easily inhaled and which can cause lung, prostate or kidney cancer.
Toxic Smoke: such substances are found in various industrial spectrums including the automotive, welding or gas industries. After inhalation, this smoke can cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung or kidney cancer and other respiratory conditions. –
Polychlorinated biphenyl or PCB: has had many applications over the past few decades, especially as a cooler or an insulator. Exposure to these chemicals is related to liver and respiratory conditions, as well as skin conditions.
Industrial workers and veterans who have been exposed to these substances and consequently develop chronic diseases are more at risk during a coronavirus pandemic especially because their immune systems have been compromised and forced to fight severe illness. Because their body’s defense mechanisms are less effective, they are more susceptible to complications such as respiratory failure or pneumonia if they develop COVID-19. Because of their fragility, these people need constant care and enhanced protective measures to avoid being infected with the new corona virus.
Protection Measures for People with Underlying Conditions during the COVID-19 Outbreak
Because they represent a risk group, workers who are subjected to occupational exposure and are currently struggling with chronic diseases must thoroughly adopt recommendations issued by health authorities:
● Wash your hands frequently
● Disinfect the surface of objects they use more often
● Respect the rules of social distance
These additional precautions can help further limit exposure to the corona virus if the person also seeks treatment for the underlying condition:
● Avoiding as many places as possible such as hospitals or clinics where interactions with the sick might occur.
● Virtual medical assistance: Remote medical services provided online aim to prevent people going to and from the hospital, unless necessary, thereby limiting the risk of exposure to viruses.
● Remote prescription updates: People who are chronically ill may be able to request prescription updates online, and have the necessary medicines sent to their homes, so there is no need to go to the pharmacy.
What about medical appointments?
For veterans and former industrial workers who now face long-term illness, this may be an urgent problem. Not going to the hospital reduces the risk of contracting the virus, but that is not always a viable option. Those who need certain procedures and investigations that cannot be done remotely need to continue their previous treatment, at the hospital.
The main recommendation, in this case, is to call ahead and ensure that visits to certain medical facilities are still possible, given that many hospitals have reached full occupancy and others have to be closed because of the risk of contamination.
If there is one positive thing that is caused by this pandemic, namely the increasing sense of caring and togetherness. Although unable to interact face-to-face, people seem more eager than ever to help each other and stay connected. This is what gives me hope that, together, we can protect the most vulnerable members of our community such as those who are chronically ill, and ensure that they will also have the opportunity to see this bleak period of our history end.
About the Author: Gregory A. Cade is the founder of the Environmental Litigation Group, P.C., a law firm based in Birmingham, Alabama. Gregory’s company focuses on cases related to environmental or occupational exposure to toxic substances. With more than 20 years of experience, they help people throughout the United States who suffer from severe illness due to exposure to poison.
to request modification Contact us at Here or [email protected]