As a seaman who crosses international waters on a cargo vessel, you may leave port in New York or elsewhere in the U.S. with goods that require fumigation or other treatments with hazardous gases. According to the National Institutes of Health, many of the toxic substances that are used on these ships have caused injuries and death for crew members.
There are many different compounds that may cause a health problem for you, and even if other crew members are exposed to the same toxin, they may not have the same reactions. Some of these you are at risk for may include the following:
- Emotional or mental issues
- Headaches, dizziness or vertigo
- Changes in taste, smell or vision
- Difficulty concentrating, processing information or remembering
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Sleepiness or fatigue
As with many gaseous toxins, many of the chemicals can cause serious breathing problems. If you do not realize you have been poisoned, you may not know to seek medical attention until long past the point when it is possible to recover from the issues that have been developing.
Toxic substances that may be used on the cargo ship where you work may be used to fumigate crops and prevent them from ripening in transit, or to rid the ship of animals or bugs that should not be transported from country to country. Many substances are used in the maintenance of the vessel, itself, as well. In particular, hazardous chemicals such as the following are commonly present on container ships:
- Carbon dioxide
- Carbon monoxide
- Methyl bromide
How you react to these and others may depend on factors such as personal sensitivity, concentration of the toxin and how long the exposure lasts. This is general information, and should not be interpreted as legal or medical advice.