Everett, Washington-based aerospace stalwart Boeing is facing claims that it knew its aircraft manufacturing facility was exposing its workers and the surrounding community to toxins and did nothing about it.
As the maker of iconic aircraft like the 747 and 737, as well as numerous military and government aerospace systems, the company is an anchor of American aerospace manufacturing and engineering. But as increasing numbers of employees from decades past fall ill, details have come to light that show that behind that success was corporate leadership that continued to put workers in harm’s way, even after it was told that those workers’ lives may be in danger.
Details of the revelations are outlined in a piece of investigative journalism posted by regional newspaper The Columbian and they are based on internal secret documents obtained through a number of depositions. According to those documents, the issue was first brought to Boeing’s attention in a March, 1980 meeting between then-company president Malcolm Stamper and occupational health manager Dr. Barry Dunphy. As occupational health manager, Dunphy was one of Boeing’s top doctors and chief medical personnel.
In the meeting, Dunphy expressed concerns that “during the ‘routine and usual’ course of their employment, tens of thousands of Boeing employees were regularly exposed to “probably hazardous” and “certainly uncontrolled” levels of toxic materials. Dunphy went on to warn that the issue was not acknowledged or “known to be true” in the previous decades of Boeing’s manufacturing and was “occurring without anyone’s real knowledge or consent.” The doctor painted a bleak picture of the future if these issues were not resolved, including “future ‘outbreaks’ of serious illness – including sterility, fetal abnormalities, stillbirth, life-long chronic illness, cancer and death.” Dunphy also provided a path toward remedying the issue.
Dunphy’s efforts were not well received. The doctor noted later that Stamper “did not appear at all sympathetic or indeed faintly happy” about having the issue brought to his attention. And now, decades later, Dunphy’s fears are becoming reality. Multiple lawsuits alleging harm and injury from toxic exposure at Boeing’s manufacturing plant are ongoing, and the company has settled lawsuits over such claims in the past.
Details of what Boeing knew and when they knew it, as well as their efforts to turn a blind eye to the situation can be found on The Columbian’s website.