A recent announcement that two Portland glass factories may have contaminated their surrounding area is a pointed reminder of how Oregon industrial accidents need not be dramatic and violent. Sometimes a problem can develop slowly over time and be just as potentially deadly.
According to a recent article in The Oregonian, state public health officials warned earlier this month that “vegetables grown close to Bullseye Glass in Southeast Portland and Uroboros Glass in North Portland could contain harmful levels of chromium, arsenic and cadmium. They asked physicians to advise patients not to eat them until more is known.” The advice extends to homes and gardens within a half-mile of both factories. The paper notes that state environmental officials are currently conducting tests in the area around both factories. These include both the collection of soil samples in the affected area and taking urine samples from people who live in the area.
The first priority is clearly the health of the people who live near these factories, but as the investigation moves forward officials can and should look closely at how the alleged contamination was able to happen in the first place. Distressingly, the newspaper reports that the test results will “only cover cancer cases over a five year period. The factories have been there for 40.” It is important that the investigation not stop there.
As a Portland industrial accidents attorney I will be watching this case closely in the coming weeks, paying close attention both to how seriously the factory owners take their responsibilities to our community and to how vigorously the government is protecting public health.
Indeed, one aspect of this story that merits much closer examination is the question of exposure to dangerous metals among the staffs of the two factories. If dangerous materials are leaking from the plant into areas up to half a mile away it is not unreasonable to ask what conditions in the factories themselves are like. It is a basic principle of Oregon industrial accident law that employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace and to ensure that proper precautions are also taken regarding the surrounding community.