Back in the 1970s, south of San Francisco, many companies in the electronics industry began hiring workers to manufacture semiconductor chips, circuit boards and other components for use in computers. Yvette Flores, one of Waters Kraus & Paul’s clients, was one of them. Her job was to fuse together glass tubes for Spectra-Physics, a company that made lasers. Ms. Flores used a spray gun and blowtorch to apply a green-colored adhesive to the glass tubes.
Ms. Flores worked in a “clean room,” so-called because the area was clean from any particle contamination that might hurt the computer components. But the room was far from clean for the workers. As part of their job, they were exposed to lead and methanol, substances that can be toxic to an unborn baby. In fact, the green-colored powder Ms. Flores worked with every day was around 62 percent lead oxide. And yet, Ms. Flores was never warned of the danger.
In December 1979, Ms. Flores delivered her son Mark. Cross-eyed, with dislocated hips and blood blisters covering his head, Mark was profoundly disabled. As an adult, Mark’s favorite television show is Sesame Street. His favorite restaurant is Chuck E. Cheese.
When Mark was 29-years-old, his mother heard a radio ad sponsored by Waters Kraus & Paul, explaining the connection between her work in the semiconductor industry and her son Mark’s severe disability.
Lead Exposure Known for Decades to be Harmful for Unborn Children
Mandy Hawes, a lawyer working as co-counsel with Waters Kraus & Paul, explained to Ms. Flores that scientists and industry have known for decades that a parent’s exposure to toxic substances could harm an unborn baby.
- 1911. A London doctor gave a lecture explaining the harmful impact of lead manufacturing on the reproductive systems of male and female workers.
- 1950s. After a chemical spill of methyl mercury in Minamata Bay, Japan, children born to mothers who had eaten the contaminated fish developed Minamata disease, with symptoms similar to cerebral palsy.
- 1975. Federal health investigators reportedly confirmed that children of workers in a New York herbicide manufacturing plant were born with heart ailments. The same year, OSHA began to develop a well-publicized lead standard.
- 1976. A New York Times story was published about General Motors’ prohibition in its Canadian facilities against women of childbearing age working at lead battery plants.
- 1978. OSHA director’s memorandum cautioned that infants whose parents were exposed to lead could be born with birth defects, including mental retardation and physical disabilities.
- 1979. The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post ran a story about women of childbearing age working at a West Virginia American Cyanamid chemical plant who were pressured to have sterilization surgery to keep their jobs, which involved working around lead on the jobsite. The same year, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) investigators interviewed employees at the Signetics facility where Ms. Flores worked and reported that ventilation should be improved to deal with significant job-related health concerns.
- 1981. The California Department of Industrial Relations published a survey of semiconductor chip workers listing the known carcinogens used in the industry.
- 1988. University of Massachusetts researchers published a study finding high miscarriage rates among clean room workers in the computer component manufacturing industry.
- 1990s. Two studies expose link between workers’ exposure to ethylene glycol ethers and spontaneous abortion.
Despite this knowledge, the semi-conductor chip manufacturing industry has failed to warn its workers or protect them adequately. As explained by David Bricker, a Waters Kraus & Paul partner who worked with Ms. Hawes on Ms. Flores’ birth defect lawsuit, “What we have seen is a pattern of the industry as a whole ignoring the rights and safety of their employees and their employees’ unborn children for the sake of profit.”
Waters Kraus & Paul and Ms. Hawes were able to reach a successful settlement for the Flores family in July 2013, shortly before trial.
Contact Waters Kraus & Paul to Learn More about Filing a Birth Defect Lawsuit
The lawyers at Waters Kraus & Paul have been representing people who have been sickened by toxic exposures for more than twenty years. Do you have a child suffering from a birth defect or cancer as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals? If so, call 800.226.9880 to speak with one of our birth defect lawyers and learn how we can help you.