Sulfur dioxide is generated in a number of industrial environments where Minnesota employees work on a daily basis. Combustion of fossil fuels produces around 75 to 85 percent of all sulfur dioxide emissions. However, the substance is also produced through chemical manufacturing during the bleaching of wood pulp and paper, through the bleaching and disinfecting of food products, during wastewater treatment in metal and ore refining industries, and in oil refining. Sulfur dioxide is a major contributor to air pollution and can pose a danger when workers are exposed to the substance while on the job.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, sets stricter standards for sulfur dioxide exposure than those espoused by OSHA. NIOSH says that exposure to 100 parts per million of sulfur dioxide poses an immediate threat to life or health and has set a recommended exposure limit of two parts per million when averaged over a 10-hour work shift. On the other hand, OSHA has set a permissible exposure limit of five parts per million when averaged over an eight-hour shift on the job. These figures establish limits for air exposure to sulfur dioxide; skin contact with the substance can rapidly lead to overexposure.
Some states specify that where the potential exists for exposure to sulfur dioxide over 0.25 parts per million, a full face respirator should be used in order to minimize exposure. In addition, it is recommended to leave the area if sulfur dioxide can be smelled or tasted while wearing a respirator.
People who have been injured on the job through experience to sulfur dioxide or other toxic chemicals may be eligible for compensation for the damages suffered. A workplace accident lawyer may be able to help employees suffering from occupational diseases or other effects to seek benefits to cover their medical bills, lost wages and other expenses.