The term “hard metal” should not be confused with the heavy metals lead, cadmium, and mercury. Hard metal can be produced by compacting powdered tungsten carbide (WC) and cobalt (Co) into a very hard composite to make machine components used for drilling, cutting, machining, and grinding. One danger in working with such metals is the risk of developing pneumoconiosis.
Such materials have been used for decades to produce machine parts and to coat other materials, however, it is now known that toxic exposure to hard metal powders like cobalt, cobalt-tungsten alloys, tungsten carbide alloys, titanium, nickel, niobium, and chromium can lead to severe occupational lung disease including the following:
Joe Lyon is a toxic tort attorney and workplace injury lawyer investigating occupational safety hazards for plaintiffs and victims of pneumoconiosis.
Hard metals are exclusively used for machining materials that require extreme hardness and high-temperature resistance. Metal cutting tools, oil well drilling tools, and jet engine exhaust ports are examples of products used with hard metals.
Occupations at high risk of toxic exposure from hard metals inhalation include manufacturers and sharpeners of machine tools, electroplaters, machine operators (grinders and lathes), and diamond polishers. Cobalt and tungsten dust is thought to cause severe lung illness and respiratory conditions. If employers fail to protect workers and provide proper safety equipment, they may be liable for managing an unsafe work environment.
Hard-metal disease can range from acute bronchitis to interstitial fibrosis. Tungsten and cobalt particles are suspected of causing serious lung disease. Heavy metal lung disease and Cobalt lung may occur after a short duration of exposure, and each case may be different.
Many case studies have involved positions in metal coating plants, electroplating, and pre-manufactured metal part factories. Metallurgic technicians and machine operators working with aerosolized metal powder, tungsten carbide, cobalt, copper, nickel, and other metals are at risk of developing cobalt lung and pneumoconiosis.
Patients with lung disease often present with abnormal interstitial lung markings on X-rays, trace metals in urine, poor pulmonary function, and diminished total lung capacity. Some workers seek medical attention for a shortness of breath and doctors locate interstitial fibrosis and in some cases, tumors.
A diagnosis of hard-metal pulmonary disease is heavily related to occupational exposure to cobalt and tungsten carbide. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has noted permissible exposure limits for cobalt, though even small amounts of exposure can be harmful.
Cobalt is used in cutting and grinding tools, pigments and paints, colored glass, surgical implants, batteries, and electroplating processes. One study or a worker population of 290 subjects suggested that interstitial and obstructive lung disease occur in tungsten carbide workers in association with elevated concentrations of cobalt.
Workers are at risk in industries processing cobalt-alloys, electroplating, mining materials, operating machines with cutting or grinding tools, and workers at nuclear or irradiation facilities.
ABOUT THE LYON FIRM
Joseph Lyon has 17 years of experience representing individuals in complex litigation matters. He has represented individuals in every state against many of the largest companies in the world.
The Firm focuses on single-event civil cases and class actions involving corporate neglect & fraud, toxic exposure, product defects & recalls, medical malpractice, and invasion of privacy.
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Many of my clients come to me in the hardest moments of their lives. They’ve suffered catastrophic injury, they’ve lost a family member, their business has suffered a catastrophic loss that they may not be able to overcome.
It’s a fear of the future and uncertainty that has driven them to come to a lawyer and to ask, ‘What available legal rights are there?’ in order to add some security for their future. The Lyon Firm takes the lead and guides clients through the process of filing catastrophic injury lawsuits.