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Widow's OC Lawsuit Says Clark Foam Chemicals Killed Husband
By Associated Press - July 27, 2006

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ The widow of a former $14-an-hour Clark Foam Products worker sued the maker of surfboard blanks claiming her husband died from exposure to deadly chemicals at the factory.

Maria Teresa Barriga's Orange County Superior Court wrongful death suit claimed her 36-year-old husband Martin Barriga handled toxic chemicals at the now-closed Laguna Niguel plant, her attorney John McCarty said Thursday.

Barriga and other employees ran with open buckets of toxic toluene diisocyanate sloshing on their hands, arms, torso, legs and feet, according to the 30-page complaint filed July 20.

Additionally, workers warmed lunches in the same microwave used to heat the chemical, the suit alleged.

Toluene diisocyanate is commonly used to make foam products and paint. When heated, the chemical becomes toxic and can cause severe respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous system problems. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also said it is a possible carcinogen.

The death certificate listed cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, inflamed and scarred lung sacs and arterial inflammation as causes of Barriga's death in July 2004. He also suffered from a cancerous chest tumor.

The father of two boys quit Clark Foam in 2002 after working at the factory for 16 years.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount for damages.

Clark Foam founder Gordon Clark alluded to the possibility of litigation in a five-page letter addressed to his customers Dec. 5, the day his business closed.

Clark said government regulation and pending lawsuits, including one by a widow of an employee "who died from cancer," forced him to close the 44-year-old factory.

"Our official safety record as an employer is not very good," Clark wrote in his only public statement. "We have three ex-employees on full workman's compensation disability evidently for life. I may be looking at very large fines, civil lawsuits and even time in prison."

Even though Clark Foam has closed, money could be paid from profits or insurance, McCarty said.

Clark couldn't be reached Thursday. The Clark Foam Products telephone was disconnected and there was no telephone listing for Clark.


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