"Enrique, my husband, worked at the Levi Strauss plant for many years—he worked with rolls of materials," Lorraine explains. "Even when he was promoted to the offices, there was always a blue tinge on his clothes and even on his chest, and he constantly had nosebleeds. He was always blowing his nose, but he never had a cold."
Lorraine, 50, says that she never looked for white dust that may have indicated air-borne asbestos, because she was so concerned about the blue dye, which was known to contain a number of toxic chemicals (see "Clean Clothes report," below). "I don't believe these buildings had the right filters because I could always smell chemicals on him," she says.
But a number of factors got her thinking that asbestos may have been to blame for her Enrique's death, such as frequent questions regarding asbestos from his doctors. As well, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has been linked to asbestos. According to researchers at the Department of Pathology and Microbiology University of Nebraska Medical Center, asbestos exposure has been linked to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) in several case reports and epidemiologic studies.
Lorraine's husband told her that asbestos was stored at the back of the plant. And when her brother-in-law was constructing a building, the builder he worked with confirmed that asbestos was in the Levi Strauss plant. "My brother-in-law told us how far down into the ground the demolition crew had to go when the building was demolished (about 10 years ago) because the asbestos was everywhere, not only in the structure," says Lorraine.
The plant where Enrique worked for 23 years was in El Paso on Airways Street. "Throughout the years, many—and I mean too many—of his co-workers have died from lymphoma," says Lorraine. "Enrique had two aunts who worked in the plant; one worked her entire life there and she also died of lymphoma. And his other aunt has recently been diagnosed with lymphoma…"
Enrique was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in October 2005, and he passed away on October 21 of this year.
"About four or five years ago there was a class-action lawsuit against Levi Strauss, which had something to do with people getting lymphoma," says Lorraine. "One of the girls who worked in HR—she was at Enrique's memorial service—knows quite a bit about what went on and I'm going to track her down. I recall her telling my husband that the employees lost the lawsuit because they had poor representation. Hands down they should have won that class-action suit. She also said that if the workers had a larger firm to represent them, there was no reason why they shouldn't have won their suit."
Lorraine fights back the tears as she talks about Enrique. "I'm just numb," she says. "I just wish he would come back, I miss him so much."
READ MORE ASBESTOS MESOTHELIOMA LEGAL NEWS
A more recent indication of asbestos exposure at Levi Strauss comes from the Madison County Record (March 31, 2010): "Ardyce Riggs of Arkansas, a worker at Levi Strauss Company from 1970 until 1979, claims pleural mesothelioma. Riggs claims she was also secondarily exposed to asbestos fibers through her husband, David Riggs, according to the complaint. Ardyce Riggs will be represented by James F. Kelly and Jeffrey A.J. Millar of Brent Coon and Associates in St. Louis. Madison County Circuit Court case number: 10-L-241."
Hopefully, Riggs will have better representation than those people who lost their class-action lawsuit years ago. Lorraine will definitely find an experienced asbestos attorney with her claim against Levi Strauss.