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Archive for Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Popcorn lung’ claims former factory employee

May 3, 2006

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— Linda Redman, one of 30 popcorn factory workers who sued a flavor manufacturer because of lung damage, died after a long lung illness, her family said.

Redman, 57, of Joplin, had to use oxygen and was confined to a wheelchair for the last year of her life. She died Sunday at her home.

Redman was among 30 current or former workers at a Jasper popcorn plant who sued International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. and its subsidiary, Bush Boake Allen Inc.

The lawsuits in Jasper County Circuit Court claimed the workers suffered lung damage because they breathed fumes from the chemical diacetyl, used in butter flavoring for microwave popcorn. They alleged the manufacturers should have known diacetyl was hazardous and failed to inform employees of the dangers.

Jasper Popcorn Co. and Glister-Mary Lee Corp., which bought the popcorn factory in 1999, were not defendants in the lawsuits.

Government health workers said the butter flavoring likely caused the outbreak of lung disease.

Redman settled with the company in April 2004, shortly before a jury was to announce its verdict. The settlement was not disclosed.

Donna Crampton, a sister, said Redman would have traded anything for good health, including money from the settlement.

"She said so many times she would give every penny of it for her health," Crampton said.

Redman worked at the plant for 18 months, starting in 1994 and leaving in 1996.

Crampton said Redman was in and out of the hospital "countless times" during the last year of her life, was bedridden for the last two months and required round-the-clock nursing care for the last three weeks.

"The hardest thing of all to accept is knowing that it could have been avoided," Crampton said. "We're all pretty bitter."

Ken McClain, the attorney who represented the former and current popcorn workers, said Redman was one of the clients who had the most severe health problems at the time of her trial.

"We knew she would need a double lung transplant, but she continued to decline and was never healthy enough," he said.

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