Today's News

Congressman proposes relief for respirator manufacturers

July 8, 2005
/ Print / Reprints /
/ Text Size+
A flood of lawsuits is damaging companies that make respirator masks for emergency workers during a terrorist attack or airborne epidemic, says a Pennsylvania congressman who is behind a bill to grant the manufacturers immunity from injury suits if the federal government has certified a mask to be safe, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

According to the report, 3M has faced more than 408,000 injury claims over disposable dust masks it sold for more than 25 years.

Last year, 3M said it had paid nearly $300 million to resolve about 300,000 respirator claims. As of March 31, it had resolved another 50,000 claims, according to the report.

The immunity bill would prohibit suits that blame respirators for any toxic exposure — from silica dust and coal dust to deadly anthrax and the potentially lethal avian flu and SARS viruses.

Its chief supporters are six other respirator companies that formed the Coalition for Breathing Safety. A coalition spokesman told the Star Tribune member companies don't want to be identified because "they don't want to become targets" of more suits.

Between 2000 and 2004, five of those companies were named in 326,215 injury claims, most of which are pending, the coalition told the paper. Many of the claims were filed by silica-dust victims who each sued dozens of companies but "show no real signs of illness," according to the coalition.

The coalition says none of the manufacturers is facing bankruptcy because most claimants seek small settlements.

A Minnesota lawyer who has sued 3M over its respirators called the bill "ridiculous" because it defines a mask as safe if approved by NIOSH or, before 1972, by the U.S. Bureau of Mines. Before NIOSH adopted new, more rigorous tests for disposable respirators in 1995, he said testing standards were not accurate in determining the effectiveness of disposable masks to filter out the smallest of particles.

Lawyers for 3M have vigorously contested those allegations, saying the company's 8710 model was highly effective when used properly, according to the newspaper account.

Under the bill, a plaintiff could sue only if he could prove that a manufacturer knew its product was defective and did not meet NIOSH standards.

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to ISHN.

You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

Scenes from the World of Safety

Sights, signs & symbols from the National Safety Congress & Expo held in San Diego, CA, September 15-18

11/4/14 2:00 pm EST

Eye Injuries: You rarely see them coming. Practical Solutions for reducing injuries to the eye.

The 3M Eye Injury Reduction webinar will provide an examination of how to help solve eye injuries in the workplace. This issue continues to challenge virtually every industry, and the solution is often times multifaceted. 3M will share some new tools and approaches to help you in solving this issue.

ISHN Magazine


2015 January

Check out ISHN's first issue of 2015, which features articles about hearing protection as well as the State of the EHS Nation 2015 Survey.

Table Of Contents Subscribe


M:\General Shared\__AEC Store Katie Z\AEC Store\Images\ISHN\safetyfourth.jpg
Safety Engineering, 4th Edition

A practical, solutions-driven reference, Safety Engineering, 4th edition, has been completely revised and updated to reflect many of today’s issues in safety.

More Products

For Distributors Only - January 2015



For Distributors Only is ISHN's niche brand standard-sized magazine supplement aimed at an audience of 2,000 U.S. distributors that sell safety products. Circulation only goes to distributors. 



Facebook logo Twitter YouTubeLinkedIn Google + icon

ishn infographics

2012 US workplace deathsCheck out ISHN's new Infographic page! Learn more about worker safety through these interactive images. CLICK HERE to view the page.