The Verdict - The Lombardi Law Firm Blog
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According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2006 there were approximately 462,000 welding, soldiering, and brazing workers. The occupation was expected to grow only about five percent between the years 2006 and 2016. Aside from the fact that employment for welders is expected to "grow more slowly than average," job availability for welders remains optimistic due to employers' reports of inability to find qualified welders. But, while welders can rest easy that there are still jobs available in this tough market, there remains a dark side to the trade.
Manganese, a toxic metal, is contained in welding fumes, which can cause parkinsonism. Parkinsonism is a neurological syndrome that is characterized by tremors (involuntary muscle movement), hypokinesia (diminished movement of body muscles), rigidity (muscles tighten), and postural instability (sensation of instability).
Manganese is a naturally occurring element that is required for animals and humans to function normally, and exposure to low levels of manganese in the diet is essential to maintaining good health in humans. The average daily intake of manganese through food is between 1 and 5 milligrams per day.
Those welders affected have trouble completing everyday tasks such as driving, eating, and brushing their teeth. What were once mundane tasks have now become the most mentally taxing.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) state that there is evidence that the brain damage caused by manganese in welding fumes can result in a greater incidence of speech impairment, tremors, and gait disturbances among welders when compared to non-welders.
Due to welders' exposure to toxic fumes, this makes the welding industry a prime target for litigation. Lawsuits, which began in the late 1970s, hardly put a dent in the $5 billion welding-products industry due to the fact that there was no reliable scientific data proving that welding fumes, or manganese in the fumes, caused parkinsonism.
In December of 2007, a U.S. District Court Judge, Kathleen O'Malley, ordered the disclosure of welding industry payments to researchers studying the effects of manganese on welders. The order resulted in the revelation that welding companies had paid $12.5 million to 25 organizations and 33 researches. Nearly all of these researchers and organizations published findings dismissing connections between welding fumes and welder complaints. In a 2003case, and Illinois jury awarded a $1 million verdict to a welder, which resulted in a large influx of lawsuits targeted at welding companies. Again in 2005, a case stemming from a Shipyard in Mississippi settled for seven figures.
According to an article published in November, welding fumes could be the next asbestos.
PCB production was banned in the 70s because of its high toxicity, and is classified as a persistent organic pollutant that bioaccumulates, or is absorbed by organisms at a faster rate than the rate at which it is lost, in animals.
There has been a number of large-scale environmental contamination incidents linked to PCBs. In New York, between 1947 and 1977, GE Company released over a million pounds of PCBs into the Hudson River. This resulted in high levels of PCBs in the local fish, which put fish consumers at an unacceptably high level for health problems.
Beginning in the late 1950s and continuing through 1977, Westinghouse Electric dumped rejected capacitors containing PCBs into area landfills and salvage yards. PCB was also dumped down factory drains, causing contamination of the Bloomington, Indiana sewage treatment plant.
Humans exposed to PCBs can develop a number of adverse health effects. Workers exposed to levels of PCBs have shown blood and urine changes consistent with liver damage. In Japan, PCB contamination of rice bran oil led to a mass poisoning of over fourteen thousand people. Other results consist of irregular menstrual cycles, lowered immune response, and, in children, poor cognitive development.
PCB has also been linked to specific kinds of cancer within humans, such as liver cancer and cancer of the biliary tract. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IRAC), as well as a number of other institutes and organizations, PCBs may reasonably be anticipated to be carcinogens.
PCBs are regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act, which was enacted into law on October 11, 1976. 40 CFR 761.
PCBs are different that DDT. DDT is a synthetic pesticide, whereas PCBs are man-made organic compounds used