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School-bus drivers say explosion at cement plant exposed them to toxic metal

School-bus drivers coated in cement dust after a 2006 explosion at a Charlestown cement plant have filed a series of lawsuits against the plant's owners, charging the dust contained beryllium, which can cause a potentially fatal lung ailment.

In the suits against LaFarge North America, originally filed in Suffolk Superior Court but now being transferred to US District Court in Boston, the Fist Student drivers seek damages of several hundred thousand dollars apiece for "acute chemical pneumonitis" they say they suffered and to pay for ongoing medical treatment and tests. LaFarge North America has yet to respond to the suits.

The drivers say their initial symptoms included shortness of breath, nausea, a burning sensation in their eyes, ears, noses and throats and conjunctivitis. Because of the beryllium, the drivers claim "permanent and serious injuries that will require lifetime medical treatment and monitoring," including "extensive diagnostic studies, rehabilitative therapy, medication, and psychiatric therapy on an ongoing basis." Among their ongoing issues: "Fear and mental anguish" at the thought their current conditions could deteriorate into beryllium disease, "which is fatal, and for which there is no known cure."

The September, 2006 incident, which involved one of the six silos at the Charlestown facility, sent more than 60 drivers to the hospital and coated nearby residential areas with the dust as well.

In 2008, the state Department of Environmental Protection fined LaFarge $20,000 for the incident and signed a consent order under which it was to install a "fail-safe" interlock system designed to prevent another explosion.

Copy of one of the driver's complaints, which is similar to the others except for the amount claimed.

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Comments

I'm going to sue the bus drivers for exposing me to their diesel exhaust, a potential carcinogen, as I drive behind them on my scooter.

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I worked nearby at the time.

Beryllium? That's a real stretch. Sure, people who work with machining beryllium and others who have lived near the plants that produce beryllium parts have had issues ... but in cement dust? Unless a beryllium part fragmented and sprayed out as part of the discharge, I can't see there being enough to produce problems. Not knowing the concentrations, however, I could be wrong.

C'mon - there are plenty enough nasty things in that dust that can cause long-term health problems to sue over. Sounds like they got themselves a lawyer who is selling them a bill of goods to get the case.

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