With construction accidents on the rise over the last few decades, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) specifically focused on those in the welding sub-profession of construction to find an alarming increase in accidents and death among welders. According to the DOL, from 1992 to 2001, the death rate of a welder increased by 68 percent of all construction workers represented.
If an employee currently works, previously worked, or is in an area where industrial welding is being performed, chances are the employee was exposed to welding rod fumes. Recent medical research suggests that exposure to welding fumes may lead many health problems, including two serious illnesses, Parkinson’s disease and Manganism. There are many court cases pending regarding this exposure, the hazards involved and the health impact on employees.
For example, in early September 2005 a Mississippi shipyard worker who claimed his neurological problems were caused by inhaling fumes from welding rods concluded his lawsuit by settling with the final two welding company defendants in his case. The worker’s lawsuit against the two welding manufacturers was scheduled for trial the following week. The lawsuit was settled for more than one million dollars.
As stated, the two diseases most commonly reported in medical research from the exposure to welding fumes are Manganism and Parkinson’s disease. A description of each of these diseases follows:
* Manganism, also known as secondary Parkinsonism, is a condition that develops when excessive levels of manganese injure that portion of the brain that controls body movements. Symptoms of this condition include fatigue, headache, slow or slurred speech, poor memory, impaired balance and tremors, delusions and hallucinations, disorientation and/or difficulty walking.
* In addition to Manganism, recent studies have found that exposure to manganese fumes is associated with the early onset of Parkinson’s disease. In fact, research conducted at the Washington University School of Medicine found that welders developed symptoms of Parkinson’s disease an average of 15 years earlier than the general population.
Many motor system disorders are caused by the decrease and eventual loss of brain cells that produce dopamine, which is imperative to the body. Of these diseases, Parkinson’s is classified with these disorders. Of the four main symptoms of the illness is a seizure or tremble like movement that often occurs in the face and appendages including legs, hands and arms; rigidity, or stiffness of the limbs and trunk; slowness of movement; and balance as well as poor or wavering posture and coordination are among the other symptoms. As these symptoms become more pronounced, patients may have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks. Early symptoms of the disease are subtle and occur gradually. Other symptoms may include depression and other emotional changes; difficulty in swallowing, chewing, and speaking; urinary problems or constipation; skin problems; and sleep disruptions.
It is advisable that legal consultation is sought out by those who have been or currently are working as a welder or for those who may have been in the area where welding has occurred. It is necessary to study work history records and evaluate medical records to determine whether there may be a valid claim against the manufacturers. It is advisable to contact a welding injury law firm as soon as possible because there is a statute of limitations on some claims.