Worker claims chemical fumes exposure led to asthma

By Kelly Holleran | Nov 6, 2008

Gregory Scott Johnson has filed suit against Arkema, alleging a chemical in new equipment the company installed caused him to develop asthma and an extreme sensitivity to common household chemical fumes.

The 34-year-old Johnson worked for Owens-Illinois since May 1998 as a mechanic and was required to maintain equipment and machinery, to run routine tests of various equipment and to repair equipment as needed, the complaint filed Nov. 3 in Jefferson County District Court states.

After Owens-Illinois contracted with Arkema in 2007, Arkema installed new equipment in the Waco bottling facility, the suit states.

Part of the equipment Arkema installed contained Certincoat, a glass coating made from monobutylin trichloride, according to the complaint.

In July 2007, a timing malfunction occurred on the line, and Johnson claims he was called in to repair the issue.

The work took several hours, and by the time Johnson was finished, he was short of breath and experiencing chest pain, according to the complaint.

Another timing malfunction occurred on July 15, 2007, and Johnson was again called in, the suit states.

Johnson alleges he again experienced the same symptoms.

Johnson went to a doctor where he was informed his lungs were scarred, according to the complaint.

"He was diagnosed with occupational asthma and is extremely sensitive to common household chemical fumes," the suit states. "He had been assessed as having a 25 percent whole-body impairment."

Johnson claims his injuries were the result of his inhalation of Certincoat fumes that escaped from the Arkema equipment.

"Prior to his exposure to Certincoat, Scott had never been diagnosed with asthma or any other lung problems," the suit states.

In addition to his asthma and other injuries, Johnson claims he suffered physical pain, mental anguish, a loss of earnings and his earning capacity, physical impairment and has incurred medical expenses.

Arkema was negligent because it failed to properly install the equipment, failed to adequately test and measure the effectiveness of ventilation of vapors emitted by the equipment and failed to adequately ventilate harmful vapors, according to the complaint.

In addition, Johnson claims the company negligently failed to adequately monitor the performance of the equipment after its installation, failed to provide adequate instructions on steps to be taken to reduce the risk of inhalation injury, failed to provide adequate instruction on how to properly monitor the adequacy of ventilation of harmful vapors and failed to warn people working in the vicinity of the equipment of the inhalation danger.

Arkema also was negligent because it failed to properly train workers on the dangers and hazards of its equipment, failed to install and design the equipment so the vapors were safely ventilated and failed t design warning devices or gauges that would notify workers of the presence of harmful vapors, according to the complaint.

Johnson is seeking unspecified actual damages, plus costs, prejudgment and post-judgment interest and other relief the court deems just.

Rod S. Squires and Mark C. Hobbs of Beard, Kultgen, Brophy, Bostwick, Dickson and Squires in Waco will be representing him.

Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th District Court, has been assigned to the case.

Case No. B182-655

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