Workers' Compensation is Awarded to Welder who has Parkinson's Disease

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CPWR - The Center for Construction Research and Training

Summary Statement

1997 article about a rare worker’s compensation award for Parkinson’s disease for a welder exposed to manganese.

A welder has been awarded workers' compensation for Parkinson's disease tied to working with manganese. This is the first time such a tie has been acknowledged in California, said the worker's lawyer, Matthew Rees, and "the first time anywhere that I'm aware of."

The decision in May 1996 by the California Workers' Compensation Appeals Board ended a 9-year legal battle for Jim Sartain, now 61.

Manganese is in stainless and carbon steels and in welding rods. Most fumes come from welding rods when a rod melts to produce a weld. Material safety data sheets for welding rods warn of Parkinson-like symptoms, Rees said.

Sartain, a member of Ironworkers' Local 433 in Los Angeles, had worked his way up to superintendent when, his wife Ronda said, "10 years ago, they told him not to come back to work, because he was a danger to himself and his fellow workers.

"It's an exciting thing that it was (approved)," added Ronda Sartain, who gave up running a day-care center to care for her husband. "The sad thing about it is even a large settlement is not going to make him better."

The Commission ordered $83,000 in back benefits, a life pension, and medical care for life, said Rees, of Rancho Cucamonga.

Jim Sartain has difficulty walking and speaking. He had used a welder's hood to protect his face, but was provided with no respiratory protection, Ronda Sartain said.

The ties between manganese exposure and Parkinson's symptoms have been known for a century.