Mississippi man claims childhood in Groves exposed him to butadiene

By David Yates | Sep 8, 2008

A Mississippi resident who grew up in Groves says his brain cancer is an affliction brought on by being exposed to butadiene "emitting from the SBR complex in Port Neches."

Through attorney Dale Hanks, Russell Cerami and his wife Terry filed a lawsuit against Huntsman Petrochemical and 29 other companies in Jefferson County District Court on Sept. 4.

Court documents show that Russell Cerami was born Oct. 4, 1965, and raised in Groves, Texas, attending elementary and junior high school there. He also attended high school in Port Neches. In 1988, Cerami was diagnosed with brain cancer.

"During all of his childhood, and beyond, Russell Cerami was regularly exposed to butadiene emitted from the SBR complex in Port Neches," the suit says.

"The exposure occurred at his home, at the schools he attended, and at other places in Port Neches where he had the right to be. Some of his most significant exposure occurred during the years he attended Port Neches-Groves High School. Such exposure was a producing cause and a proximate cause of his brain cancer."

The suit goes on to allege that the defendant corporations conspired among themselves to conceal the dangers of butadiene, negligently causing Cerami to suffer "considerable pain and suffering, both mental and physical."

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.

On top of punitive and actual damages, Cerami is suing for past and future mental anguish, medical expenses, physical impairment and disfigurement. His wife 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 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 58th Judicial District, Judge Bob Wortham.

Case No. A182-355

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