Common Questions About Manganese-Related Welding Rod Litigation

Please find below answers to common questions about manganese-related welding rod litigation, annotated with links to relevant documents and other resources hosted both on this site and at the Welding Information Center.

What is welding?

Welding is a method of joining two metal parts by applying heat. Arc welding, in which an electrical arc is used to apply the heat, is the most widely used and commercially important method of welding.

Welding is a vital component of many sectors of our economy and plays an integral role in the products and services comprising fifty percent of the U.S. gross national product. Welders can be found in a wide variety of industries and endeavors, from manufacturing and construction to sculpture and jewelry making. Welding has evolved into a high-tech industry that is key to critical performance requirements of defense systems, aeronautics, architecture and automotive applications, among others.

What is manganese?

Manganese is a naturally occurring metal and the twelfth most abundant element on earth. It is essential for healthy functioning of the human body and is included in many vitamin/mineral supplements. Tea, nuts, grains and leafy vegetables all include manganese.

Do welding rods contain manganese?

Yes. To create an effective weld, the composition of welding rods must match the composition of the pieces of steel being joined by welding. Manganese, which contributes to steel’s hardness, strength and durability, is an essential component of steel and therefore of welding rods as well.

What exactly are the plaintiffs in these cases alleging?

Plaintiff attorneys allege that exposure to manganese in welding fumes causes welders to develop Parkinson’s disease or Parkinson's-like movement disorders, such as manganism.

Is there any evidence to support this position?

No. There are no scientifically sound studies demonstrating that mild steel welding, the type of welding at issue in almost all the pending cases, causes Parkinson’s disease, manganism or Parkinson's-like movement disorders. Welding products have a long track record of safety. In close to a century of welding activity, no epidemiological studies have shown that welders develop Parkinson’s disease or Parkinson's-like movement disorders at a greater rate than the public at large.

What is manganism?

Manganism, is a very rare disease affecting the central nervous system that can result from gross overexposure to some forms of manganese. Manganism is extremely rare, occurring mostly in third-world countries among miners and smelters who are exposed to extremely high levels of manganese.

What is the difference between Parkinson’s disease and manganism?

Research demonstrates conclusively that manganism and Parkinson’s disease are distinctly different disorders affecting different parts of the central nervous system. In fact, one can ascertain through external examination, reaction to medication and positron emission topography (PET) scans whether someone is suffering from Parkinson’s disease, which strikes 1-2% of the population over the age of 60, the cause of which is unknown, or manganism, which is extremely rare and of known origin.

What causes Parkinson’s disease and manganism?

The cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown. Manganism is caused by gross overexposure to manganese. It is very rare and mostly occurs in third-world countries among miners, and to a lesser extent among smelters, who are exposed to extremely high levels of manganese.

Are welders more prone to Parkinson’s disease than other workers?

There is no credible evidence – scientific, medical, toxicological or epidemiological – that welders are more prone to Parkinson’s disease. In fact, a government study of veterans found that lawyers, doctors and clerical workers were more likely to die of Parkinson’s disease than welders.

Have any welders developed manganism?

The industry is not aware of any verified cases of manganism resulting from exposure to fumes from mild steel welding, which we believe is at issue in these cases. Based on more than a century of experience, the form of manganese present in welding fumes in typical welding does not cause manganism. Again, manganism is very rare and mostly occurs in third-world countries among miners and smelters who are exposed to extremely high levels of manganese.

Who are the defendants in welding rod litigation cases?

The defendants include current and past manufacturers and distributors of welding rods, as well as some welder employers.

What has been the result of this litigation, to date?

The welding industry has a very strong track record defending against manganese litigation, and will continue to defend itself vigorously against these meritless claims. Of 31 trials, 26 have resulted in defense verdicts. Two of the five plaintiffs verdicts have been reversed and only one has resulted in a final judgment.

Where are the majority of these cases pending?

A substantial number of these cases are pending in a multi-district litigation (MDL) proceeding in the US District Court in Cleveland (PDF).

What exactly is an MDL proceeding?

A common feature of large-scale litigation in the United States is that it is dispersed across multiple federal and state courts. Multi-districting is a statutory-based procedure that allows parties to request that the judiciary collect lawsuits arising out of the same or similar circumstances and transfer them to a single court and judge for purposes of pretrial preparation. In the case of the welding fume litigation, the MDL is being presided over by Judge Kathleen O’ Malley of the US District Court in Cleveland, Ohio.

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