Man claims 7 years of butadiene exposure caused his leukemia

David Yates Sep. 19, 2007, 8:30am

For seven years of his life Bobby Simon worked at Port Neches butane plant, where he claims he inhaled and absorbed enough carcinogenic emissions to cause him to develop leukemia.

From 1968 to 1975, Simon alleges his body was unwillfully "invaded" by butadiene, a key chemical used in synthetic rubber production, while working at Neches Butane. He is suing the Huntsman Petrochemical Corp., along with 18 other oil companies currently manufacturing and distributing the chemical.

A client of attorney Dale Hanks, Simon's personal injury lawsuit was filed with the Jefferson County District Court on Sept. 17. Some of the defendants named in the suit include the Goodrich Corp., Chevron USA, the Dow Chemical Co., Exxon Mobil and Texaco.

In the month of September, attorney Hanks has filed a total of four butadiene lawsuits, all of which strongly assert that the petrochemical industry knowingly sacrificed human lives for profit.

In his suit, Simon says companies such as Union Oil and Shell manufactured, processed and supplied butadiene, "negligently" exposing him to a harmful chemical that had not been "adequately" tested.

"Butadiene … was a producing cause of Simon's leukemia and such products were unreasonably dangerous as marketed and therefore defective," the suit said, adding that the defendants failed to test butadiene "for chronic health effects, making them liable to plaintiffs for actual and punitive damages."

The suit goes on to further allege that the International Institute of Synthetic Rubber Producers, an international non-profit trade association with 39 corporate members, which include several of the defendants, "conspired to slow (butadiene) health-effect research" - a common law duty violation.

In addition to punitive and actual damages, Simon is suing for past and future mental anguish, medical expenses, physical impairment and disfigurement. His wife, Doris, is suing for loss of consortium.

According to the IISRP Web site, rubber comes from two sources: nature and man. Natural rubber is siphoned from cultivated trees on plantations in Asia and Africa. Synthetic rubber is man-made and is produced around the world in manufacturing plants that synthesize it from petroleum and other minerals.

"As Ralph Wolfe's poetic prose confirms, rubber is as indispensable to modern society as steel and wood and mortar," the IISRP Web site said. "We use products made of rubber at work, at home, at play, even when we travel. Automobiles, trains and aircraft rely on it for safety and comfort. Industry uses it to produce hoses, belts, gaskets, tires, molding, and thousands of other products. Rubber in the modern world is omnipotent."

The Huntsman Corp. has a butadiene production capacity of 850 million pounds per year at its Port Neches, Texas manufacturing facility and was the largest U. S. producer of butadiene in 1997 and 1998, according to the company's Web site.

"About half of all butadiene consumption in the U.S. is for styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) and polybutadiene (BR) which are primarily used in the manufacture of tires," the Huntsman site said. "Approximately 14 percent of the butadiene consumed in the U.S. goes into the production of nylon 6,6 which is used in making carpet. About 13 percent of the butadiene consumed in the U.S. is used in the manufacture of styrene butadiene latex (SBL) which is further processed into products such as adhesives and carpet backing. Another important use for butadiene is the production of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic which is used for pipe, automotive components and housings for electronic equipment such as telephones and computers."

The plaintiffs are demanding a trial by jury. Hanks is an attorney for the Beaumont law firm Bush Lewis.

The case has been assigned to the 136th Judicial District, Judge Milton Shuffield.

Case No. D180-058

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