Independent Laboratory Testing of Waste Hydraulic Oil Used on Surgical Instruments at Duke Hospitals

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Lawyers announce the results of the independent laboratory testing of waste hydraulic oil used to wash surgical instruments at two Duke University Health System hospitals, Durham Regional and Duke Health Raleigh. During November and December of 2004, approximately 3,800 patients in Durham and Raleigh, North Carolina, were exposed to toxic contaminants during surgical procedures.

HensonFuerst Trial Lawyers, a North Carolina-based law firm, in conjunction with Bales Weinstein of Tampa, Florida, which has significant expertise in toxic tort litigation, announce the results of the independent laboratory testing of waste hydraulic oil used to “wash” surgical instruments at two Duke University Health System hospitals, Durham Regional and Duke Health Raleigh.

During November and December of 2004, approximately 3,800 patients in Durham and Raleigh, North Carolina, were exposed to toxic contaminants during surgical procedures. This exposure resulted from Duke University Health System hospitals mistakenly using waste hydraulic oil in the instrument sterilization process instead of detergent. Since January of 2005, HensonFuerst has been contacted by numerous victims who were exposed to this waste hydraulic oil.

After considerable effort, victims’ attorneys were allowed obtain samples of the waste hydraulic oil for testing. The law firms retained an independent materials testing laboratory, wholly unconnected to the Duke University Health System, in order to obtain unbiased results.    

The laboratory results confirm that hazardous contaminants were indeed present in the waste hydraulic oil to which patients were unknowingly exposed.

Used hydraulic oil is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a “regulated waste.” This is because such oil degrades, causing extensive chemical changes, and also becomes contaminated with chemicals and debris from hydraulic equipment.

Independent testing arranged by victims’ counsel was clearly more exhaustive in scope than tests previously ordered by Duke University Health System officials. The limited test results previously provided by a Duke-retained laboratory were released in an effort to convince patients that their exposure was not harmful. This was misleading as the independent test results reveal a different story.

Independent testing revealed large amounts of visible masses. These masses were made up of metal particles, accumulated over time from wear, and soot-like carbon particles formed as the hydraulic oil broke down. Additionally, anti-wear additives in the oil changed form and released their component substances.     Due to these breakdown processes and the accumulation of foreign particles, the waste hydraulic oil appeared visibly darker in color.

Specific contaminants identified by the independent laboratory include arsenic, lead, cadmium, chromium, nickel, zinc and other metals. Arsenic, cadmium, chromium and nickel are metals that can cause cancer. Lead’s propensity to produce a variety of adverse health effects has made this metal a particular focus in regulatory controls of chemical exposures.

Research regarding a number of the identified metals has documented their potential to increase susceptibility to pneumonia-like illnesses and other infections. Many of the same metals have been associated with allergic reactions and the progression of long-term autoimmune illnesses. Particulate matter, such as that found in the waste hydraulic oil, can trigger foreign body reactions that slow wound healing, and its petroleum components can cause irritation to the skin or other tissue.

This information reveals that patients clearly need further evaluation. Chemical analysis alone does not provide enough information because each individual’s contact with the oil differed. Therefore, it is important for the exposed patients to seek an independent medical evaluation. Now that we have identified the contaminants in the waste hydraulic oil to which patients were unknowingly exposed, doctors and scientists will have specific chemicals to consider as they evaluate the health of their patients.

About HensonFuerst Trial Lawyers    

HensonFuerst Trial Lawyers is a North Carolina-based law firm specializing in catastrophic injury, medical malpractice, nursing home abuse, and mass tort cases. For nearly 30 years, the lawyers at HensonFuerst have represented those injured by the negligence of others. With successful multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements throughout the state of North Carolina, the lawyers of HensonFuerst offer considerable experience and resources for their clients. For more information, visit http://www.lawmed.com.

About Bales Weinstein

Bales Weinstein represents clients in a broad range of environmental, health care, tort, business, antitrust, and other complex litigation. Well-versed in toxic torts, the firm has both prosecuted and defended a wide variety of cases involving chemical exposure, including class action, mass tort, and multi-district litigation in federal and state courts. The firm’s principal office is located in Tampa, Florida. For more information, visit http://www.BalesWeinstein.com

Contact:

Suzanne Lee

Director of Public Relations

Henson Fuerst Trial Lawyers

2501 Blue Ridge Road

Raleigh, NC 27607

Phone: 919-781-1107

Fax: 919-781-8048

Mobile: 615-500-6778

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Suzanne Lee
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