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Silicosis Suit

Feb 27, 2003 | Corpus Christi Caller Times A Corpus Christi man says he contracted a serious lung disease during his career as a sandblaster.

Harrel Horton has sued the manufacturer of the synthetic sand used in the sandblasting for medical expenses and punitive damages.

The case is in trial this week in 347th district court in Nueces County.

Horton, 67, says Lone Star Industries should have taken steps to better protect workers like him from inhaling the dangerous abrasive sand.

Horton worked for various companies from the 1950s through the 1970s, sandblasting mostly at refineries and large industrial sites.

In 2001, Horton was diagnosed with silicosis.

Silicosis is an inflammation of the lungs caused by extended exposure to abrasive silicon sand.

Horton says he doesn't experience pain, just shortness of breath. The breathing problem limits his activity.

He says doctors believe he will only live another five years because of the illness.

Sandblasting is a quick, effective way of cleaning metal and other surfaces without using liquids, which could lead to rust.

Lone Star Industries is one of the companies that makes the synthetic sand used in sandblasting.

An attorney for Lone Star Industries presented witnesses Wednesday who point to others for possible blame for Horton's illness, specifically Horton himself, and the maker of the protective face mask used during sandblasting.

A lung doctor told the jury Horton should have sought further medical attention back in 1988 when another doctor told Horton his chest X-ray "scared him (the doctor)."

An air pollution expert testified the makers of protective face masks used in sandblasting aren't effective.

Both sides rested their cases Wednesday.

Closing arguments are set for Thursday afternoon.

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