Despite Elevated Miscarriage Rate, Boeing Failed to Follow Up

A series of miscarriages among pregnant women working at the Boeing Company prompted some women to speculate whether this was connected to chemicals handled as part of their job. This led to a company study investigating the issue.

The study’s findings were inconclusive, with doctors claiming they found it difficult to draw a link between the chemicals used by employees and the elevated incidence of miscarriages despite the fact that the chemicals were linked to miscarriage. Records show that over the years, Boeing was aware of the dangerous health effects of industrial chemicals regularly handled by its employees but failed to follow through and take action.

About the Boeing Study on Miscarriages

Pregnant women who worked at Boeing’s Auburn plant appeared to have a higher-than-normal rate of miscarriage. Among the study participants, 11 of 41 pregnancies ended in miscarriage or 27 percent of cases. The normal rate of miscarriage among pregnant women is 10 to 20 percent.

Ultimately, the worker sample size was determined to be too small to conclude with certainty whether the overall rate of miscarriage at the Auburn plant was higher than the overall rate of miscarriage among the general population. Boeing also communicated in a memo that “no single agent can be identified as a cause of miscarriage in this study.”

According to a former manager of epidemiology at Boeing, company epidemiologists spent years building the foundation for a database intended to uncover connections between chemicals used by employees and workers’ health ailments. The manager said that while this was the intent, he doesn’t believe these efforts resulted in the successful creation of the database.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency asserted that further research was warranted after reviewing the results of the miscarriage study. There was no further follow-up by Boeing.

Concerns about Industrial Chemicals Used at Boeing: A Timeline

As far back as the 1940s, the medical community acknowledged that pregnant women are more sensitive to industrial chemicals than the average population.

  • In 1980, a doctor at Boeing warned the company president about the potential dangers of several chemicals, urging improvements to Boeing’s “industrial hygiene” program. This wasn’t well received by the company’s then-president.
  • A Reproductive Health Survey conducted in 1986 noted that more information was needed about the effects of chemicals used at Boeing factories. The survey contended, “many chemicals have not been studied for reproductive health effects.” The study looked at dozens of chemicals, including organic solvents, suspected of being dangerous to the reproductive system.
  • A 1987 internal report outlined Boeing’s plan to build a list (of materials that have the potential to cause harm to employees’ health). The report noted that more chemicals were being introduced into the workplace at the time.
  • In a 1988 memo, two years after the report on miscarriages at Boeing’s Auburn plant, Boeing’s corporate health and safety manager noted mixed conclusions about the data.
  • In the 1980s and 1990s, Boeing faced growing pressure for more information about the connection between chemicals used at its plants and the adverse health impact on employees.
  • As of 1991, Boeing’s Occupational Health Examination Guide for Physicians noted that in establishing safety limits for worker chemical exposure, “the potential for adverse reproductive effects were given only minimal consideration.”

About the Lawsuits Against Boeing

A series of lawsuits claim Boeing factory employees suffered reproductive harm from chemicals they handled while working. The lawsuits allege that exposure to toxic chemicals at Boeing plants resulted in birth defects in workers’ children who were born between 1980 and 2014.

Attorneys believe there may be many more people afflicted with lifelong health problems or genetic disorders due to the toxins handled by their parents while working at Boeing manufacturing facilities.

Determining a link between chemicals being used by employees at a company and adverse health effects – such as reproductive harm – depends on the company itself conducting a study. This is an inherent conflict of interest because if a company-sponsored study concludes that chemicals are dangerous to employees, the company is inviting liability. As such, there is a clear disincentive for companies such as Boeing to undertake studies that would shine a light on the health effects of chemicals that their employees routinely handle.

How We Help Boeing Birth Defect Victims

Seek justice with the help of our experienced birth defects attorneys. Our alliance of birth defect victims’ attorneys has represented people like you who have been affected by birth defects caused by toxic exposure at Boeing. We aggressively fight the corporate giants who failed to protect vulnerable workers. If you or a loved one was exposed to chemicals while pregnant and now have a child who suffers from a life-altering birth defect like spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, or cerebral palsy, we can help.