A former sandblaster has been awarded $7.6 million against Mississippi Valley Silica Co. Inc. after contracting silicosis, an incurable lung disease caused by exposure to silica particles at his former job.
The silicosis lawsuit was filed by Robert Eastman, who developed a severe case of the disease after working as a sandblaster between 1963 and 1978. The sand used in sandblasting at the facility was provided by Mississippi Valley Silica, and Eastman alleged that the company knew that their product could cause potentially fatal silicosis, and failed to take steps to protect workers or provide adequate warnings.
Following a trial in Warren County, Miss., a jury awarded Eastman $7.6 million in compensation. According to a report in the Clarion Ledger, the Silicosis lawsuit was the first such case to go to trial in Mississippi.
Silicosis, also known as Potter’s Rot, is caused by overexposure to crystalline silica particles which the lungs cannot expel by coughing or mucus once inhaled. Scar tissue develops around the particles in the lungs and reduces the ability of the lungs to pull oxygen from the air. Silica exposure has also been associated with bronchitis, tuberculosis and lung cancer.
Silicosis is most common among industrial workers, particularly sandblasters, rock drillers, stone cutters, masons, miners and glass manufacturers, making it one of the oldest known industrial-related diseases in the world.
The disease is more common in developing countries than in the United States; however, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about one million workers in the U.S. are exposed to silica dust. Estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Labor and WHO place the number of U.S. silicosis-related deaths at between 150 and 300 annually.