Excess Manganese Exposure May Lead to Manganese Poisoning

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Insurers’ Responsibility for Welding Rod Fume Exposure

May 21, 2004 — Can insurers escape liability for workers who become seriously ill from welding fumes? Businesses are asking this question as their insurers try to classify these toxic fumes as “pollutants” that they exclude from insurance policy coverage.

A detailed article in the Harris Martin journal, Litigation Watch: Welding Rods, explores the history of insurance cases involving fumes and vapors, as well as the limited number of cases directly about welding fumes and welding rods. The author suggests that manganese fumes from welding are not “pollutants,” but ordinary substances in the workplace. She points out that courts are reluctant to deny the insured the coverage that they purchased. Also, she concludes that damages from commercial activities such as welding should and will be covered.

The Hazards of Welding Fumes

Welding gives off fumes that contain toxic metals, including cadmium, nickel, chromium, and manganese. Manganese is a major component of welding fumes, particularly those from mild steel welds.

Excess exposure to manganese can cause manganese poisoning or manganism, a serious condition marked by tremors, a fixed gaze, body rigidness, slowed movement, and memory loss. Although manganism looks similar to Parkinson’s disease, it affects different parts of the brain. Manganism, but not Parkinson’s disease, is characterized by a staggering, strutting gait called a “cock walk” and by “intention tremors,” which are tremors that happen during active movement. Manganese exposure may also be a factor in the onset of early Parkinson’s disease, according to recent research (Neurology 2001 Jan 9; 56(1): 8–13).

Manganese Exposure

Over the years, all types of welders have been exposed to excess manganese, including those involved in construction, the automobile industry, railroad track welding, and the production of parts for heavy excavation equipment. It was not until 2003, however, that a welder who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease was awarded $1 million in a lawsuit based on his exposure to welding fumes (Lawrence E. Elam v. Lincoln Electric Company et al., 3rd Judicial Circuit, Madison County, IL; October 28, 2003).

Welding rod litigation is now considered an emerging field of law. Defendants may include manufacturers, sellers, and suppliers of welding products as well as insurers of businesses in which welding rods were used. If you are a welder who is experiencing Parkinson–like symptoms, please feel free to contact us to learn about welding hazards and your legal rights. We have been handling medical/legal cases for over 20 years, including those involving exposure to toxic substances.