One of the most serious and long-lasting injuries that can be caused by welding rods is the early onset of Parkinson's disease, mainly due to the presence of toxic levels of manganese in the fumes that emanate during the weld process. Manganese, a metallic element that’s found in almost all forms of steel and most welding materials, has been linked to the development of Parkinson's disease for decades.
Parkinson's is a disorder that impairs the motor system -- the body's movement and physical function. In chemical and physiological terms, Parkinson's is caused by the loss of brain cells that produce a chemical messenger called dopamine, causing nerve cells to fire haphazardly and leaving a person incapable of controlling certain physical movements. Parkinson's is a progressive disorder, meaning that it usually gets worse over time.
Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease
The symptoms of Parkinson's disease usually appear gradually, and tend to increase with severity as the condition progresses. Some common symptoms of Parkinson's disease include:
Trembling and tremors in the face, hands, arms, and legs
Stiffness in the arms and legs
Abnormal slowness in body movement
Loss of smell
Problems with coordination, balance, and walking
Difficulty talking clearly, and without slurring or hesitation
Dementia and depression
Treatment for Parkinson's Disease
While no cure for Parkinson's disease exists, a number of medications are currently available to provide patients with relief from the symptoms of the disease. The most common type of medication is levodopa, usually sold under the brand name Sinemet. Certain types of muscle exercises and physical therapy have also proven to be somewhat effective in treating the symptoms of Parkinson's. Brain surgery, though a relatively rare treatment option, has been shown to alleviate symptoms of Parkinson's, and even slow progression of the disease in some cases. Lastly, the controversial area of stem cell research remains a potential source for future treatment of Parkinson's through the replacement of lost nerve cells.
Potential Legal Claims
If you have developed Parkinson’s Disease and believe that it may have been caused by overexposure to manganese fumes, then you may have a legitimate legal claim against the manufacturer of the materials and rods that released the manganese fumes, and possibly against your employer as well. If you sue the manufacturer of the welding rods, for example, your claim would be based on a theory of product liability, and specifically, for failure to warn you of the hazards of exposure to manganese fumes.
Of course, at trial, your claim would rely on evidence that you were in fact unaware that exposure to the rod fumes would present a hazard to your health. Several lawsuits have already been filed and won against welding rod manufacturers, so it’s entirely possible that your claim could succeed given the right set of facts. You may also have a claim against your employer for allowing you to be exposed to manganese fumes and for failing to advise or warn you of the hazards involved.
Keep in mind, however, that your claim cannot be brought if the statute of limitations has run out. Each state has different-length statute of limitations periods, and they begin to run at different times, too. Because statute of limitations calculation can be complicated for a layperson, speak with an attorney first to determine whether your claim is live or whether it has run out of time.
If you or a loved one is experiencing the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, or any other possible side effects from toxic welding rod exposure, you should first seek immediate medical attention. In addition, you should speak with an experienced product liability attorney to discuss your legal right to compensation for your injuries.
Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.