The Expert: Dr. Jacqueline Moline, an occupational medicine specialist based in New York, details exposure she says the factory worker received while working with asbestos, as well as its link to his ultimately fatal mesothelioma.
In a 2018 New Jersey trial over the death of a factory worker, Dr. Jacqueline Moline, an occupational medicine expert from New York, provides key testimony connecting the worker’s mesothelioma to Union Carbide asbestos.
Moline begins by explaining how the worker was exposed to asbestos at his jobsite. She notes that about 50,000 pounds of asbestos was delivered to his factory and incorporated into the products that were made during the time he worked there. He worked in a “powder” room where he measured out the raw asbestos for transport to other areas, but the expert points out that he also was exposed to asbestos numerous others ways, including being around coworkers exposed to asbestos and performing tasks that sent asbestos into the air.
With regard to how the worker could have been protected from the dangers of asbestos, the doctor explains that there are three ways to protect workers from toxic products. The first option is to substitute the product with one that is not toxic. If this is not possible, then administrative controls can be instituted. This would include exhausts and fans. However, these can break down and fans will simply blow toxic air around unless it is a pure exhaust fan or a hood. The third method requires employees to wear protective equipment.
This last method is the least desirable, Moline states, as it requires employees to be responsible for their own protection. Wearing a respirator can impair communication and people tend not to wear them all the time. They take them off to speak and perform other tasks, without realizing they may be exposed to a toxin. Asbestos, she notes, can be present even when it is not visible.
A previous witness who was a worker at the plant testified that workers removed their respirators routinely during cleanup at the end of the day. Thus, although wearing a respirator can help limit exposure, they are far from perfect. When employees are educated about these limitations, the exposure may be reduced, but it is never perfect. To illustrate, she describes firefighters removing their respirators after a fire is out because they feel less threatened. However, the burned and smoldering asbestos remains a threat to them.
Moline then addresses whether the fact that chrysotile asbestos, by far the most commonly used form of the mineral, was also supplied by companies other than Union Carbide or made in other countries and present in products within the plant. The expert states that this argument does not clear Union Carbide. The exposure and danger is cumulative, she says, and cannot be separated by manufacturer or country. The product is still chrysotile asbestos with all of its inherent damaging liabilities.
The expert stresses that asbestos causes mesothelioma and cancer based on the scientific literature and publications of regulatory agencies. She points out that this worker was exposed over a long period of time. He developed mesothelioma and had markers within his body of the exposure to asbestos, including pleural plaques and lung scarring. The doctor concludes on this record, therefore, that the worker’s “exposure to asbestos was a substantial and contributing factor” to the development of his mesothelioma.
Her testimony was effective as the plaintiff was awarded $2.38 million.
Gary Gansar, MD, is residency-trained in general surgery. He served as Chief of Surgery and Staff at Elmwood Medical Center and on the Medical Executive Committee at Touro Infirmary and Mercy Hospital in New Orleans, LA. Dr. Gansar was Board Certified in general surgery while in active practice. He joined AMFS in 2015 as a Physician Medical Director.
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