Growing Silicosis Risk

Simon Greenstone Panatier Client Featured in New York Times on Growing Silicosis Risk

Production of ‘engineered stone’ counter-tops can cause lung disease in workers


DALLAS – The New York Times recently wrote about the growing number of silicosis cases among workers who produce “engineered stone” counter-tops. The article describes the plight of Ublester Rodriguez, a client of Dallas-based trial law firm Simon Greenstone Panatier P.C., who was diagnosed with the deadly lung disease in 2011.

According to the Times’ April 1 story, engineered stone counter-tops are made from slabs of processed quartz, which can be up to 90 percent silica. When those slabs are cut, they release large amounts of silica particles that, if inhaled, can cause silicosis, lung cancer and kidney disease.

Mr. Rodriguez, 39, fabricated engineered stone counter-tops and other products containing silica for nearly 10 years. In a deposition, he testified that he was often covered in white dust at the end of his workday. His case is Ublester Rodriguez et al. vs. Breton USA Customers Service Corp., et al., No. 2011-55206 in Harris County’s 333rd District Court.

Two medical journals have reported outbreaks of silicosis among workers in Israel and Spain, which are home to two of the world’s largest engineered stone manufacturers. In some cases, workers needed lung transplants to survive, the Times reported.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently issued new rules to limit workers’ exposure to “respirable crystalline silica.” OSHA estimates the rule change will save more than 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year by limiting workers’ exposure to silica dust and establishing guidelines to achieve those limits.

“Engineered counter-tops were introduced in the United States during the 1990s,” says attorney Chris Panatier, who represents Mr. Rodriguez. “They contain three to four times the dangerous crystalline silica of traditional granite. We are only now seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of sick workers. If you have a fancy counter-top, chances are a worker fabricated or finished it by hand, and if precautions were not taken to prevent exposure, they will be at risk.”

Simon Greenstone Panatier is a nationally recognized trial law firm with a reputation for creative and aggressive representation of clients in a wide variety of catastrophic personal injury matters nationwide.

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