Boeing Settles with Everett Security Guard Over Chemical Exposure
The Boeing Co. and a security company have reached a settlement with a former security guard who claimed she suffered lasting health issues from chemical sprays used by workers inside a manufacturing hangar.
The settlement was filed January 4 in U.S. District Court in Seattle for an undisclosed amount. A spokesperson for Boeing and the security guard’s attorney both declined to comment to the Everett Herald. The plaintiff’s former employer, Allied Universal, also did not respond to a request for comment.
Boeing assigned security guard Holly Hawthorne, who worked for Allied Universal, to Building 45-335 on the company’s Everett, Washington, campus at the south end of Paine Field. That’s where the lawsuit claimed that employees used aerosolized chemical sprays for plane assembly and maintenance, the Everett Herald reported.
During the time she worked there, she said she was not provided protective gear and was never alerted that industrial-grade “corrosion-inhibiting compounds” were in use. The building lacked adequate ventilation, according to the lawsuit Hawthorne filed in April 2022.
Hawthorne experienced migraines, breathing problems and skin irritation from repeated exposure to the toxins, her attorney told the Herald last year. She eventually moved to Las Vegas, hoping the dry weather would help her condition.
“The conduct of Boeing and Universal respecting plaintiffs was so outrageous in character,” the lawsuit reads, “and so extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society.”
In its own response to the lawsuit, Boeing acknowledged Hawthorne worked at the facility but denied she was exposed to the compounds in question.
Hawthorne said she was repeatedly exposed to toxic chemicals like Cor-Ban 35 or Chromium (VI) Oxide used in plating, the lawsuit said. The companies that manufacture those chemicals warn that they can cause major health issues.
One of the chemicals is a form of hexavalent chromium, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers all hexavalent chromium compounds to be “occupational carcinogens.”
In 2020, an industrial hygienist for Boeing’s Everett plant warned that “literally hundreds of Boeing employees are at risk” of developing lung cancer or other forms of cancer “regardless of respiratory protection” due to high levels of hexavalent chromium, a Herald investigation found.
Allied Universal had reportedly allowed other employees to request to be moved out of the building due to the chemicals, the Herald said. In a response to the allegations filed in court last year, the security company denied any knowledge of the chemicals.
In January 2020, the state Department of Labor and Industries levied $4,800 in fines against the company after several security guards at the Everett site complained of “headaches, irritated eyes, sporadic chest pains, and other breathing issues” as a result of chemical exposure.
The citation stemmed from an incident the previous month when two Boeing employees sprayed Cor-Ban 35 in building 45-335 without warning security officers at a nearby guard station, department records show.
The guards, Allied Universal employees, were not wearing protective gear at the time, and the required ventilation system was not in use, an inspection found.
The settlement comes as Boeing faces scrutiny for exposing employees to toxic chemicals at the aviation giant’s Everett facility. Company documents reveal warnings about the danger date back decades and that concerns persist, the Herald has reported.
Families of former factory workers have filed a series of lawsuits claiming chemicals used on Boeing’s factory floor caused birth defects in their children. Last fall, the company reached a settlement with one of the children, Marie Riley, now a 42-year-old North Bend resident, still living with a defective heart.
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