Conagra, the manufacturer of Pam cooking spray, is in the middle of multiple lawsuits being filed for what plaintiffs allege is a defective product. According to these allegations, the cooking spray aerosol can exploded and caused serious injuries because the design was defective. Conagra maintains that the product is safe when used as directed.
Accusations of Defective Product
Plaintiffs are claiming that the aerosol cans of Pam cooking spray explode when they shouldn’t do so. These explosions result in severe, life-threatening injuries that often have permanent damage.
Allegations state that the cans have exploded when they were at a safe distance from a heat source. In fact, one woman states that the can exploded after she had placed it in her shopping cart.
Many people understand that the contents of an aerosol can are kept under pressure. When the pressure is too great, it can cause an explosion. However, it should be designed that it is safe to use under normal circumstances. With the Pam cooking spray cans, they supposedly explode even at average temperatures at a safe distance from a heat source.
Conagra changed the design of the larger cans of Pam cooking spray in 2011. Vents were placed on the bottom of the cans, but allegations state that these vents did not work correctly, causing the chemicals inside the can to expand to dangerous levels at lower temperatures than what should allow this condition.
Six cases were filed in the Chicago courts on May 7th, 2019 against Conagra. Other lawsuits may be filed in the future. In one case, a video has been included which shows a cook engulfed in flames after the explosion. Allegations state that Conagra failed to adequately warn consumers of the dangers of the exploding cans, instead marketing them as safe when used in normal situations.
In one situation, a medical student who was living in Indianapolis was cooking dinner at home with his girlfriend. He used the cooking spray and it burst into flames. He suffered burn injuries to his face, arms and hands, and neck even though he was able to put out the fire. He has had to go through several surgeries to graft the skin to those burned areas.
What Caused the Injuries
Flammable chemicals are included in the list of ingredients for cooking sprays. When the temperature rises, the chemicals move faster and expand. The can continues to expand until there is no room and then it explodes.
The allegations are that the cans exploded at lower temperatures than what was claimed by Conagra. On the warning labels, the cautions for this product state that it should not be kept in areas that are above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the cans have been known to explode at much lower temperatures with no warning to the customers who purchased them.
Two situations occur when the cans exploded. Many times, they create a flash fire because of the flammable contents. In one instance, a full kitchen fire resulted and a cook at a restaurant was caught on fire.
The second issue is the movement of other items because of the explosion. These items may hit a person, causing impact injuries. Both situations can lead to serious injuries that require immediate medical attention and long-term recovery.
Injuries from Exploding Cans
Those involved in the lawsuits against Conagra have reported a variety of injuries. The most common is burns which can range from first-degree to third-degree. With second- and third-degree burn injuries, the person may need one or several surgeries for skin grafting. Even with grafting, they may end up disfigured.
Along with burns, the people have reported blindness and nerve damage from burns. In many situations, the damage is permanent and leads to limitations in their ability to work and perform daily tasks.
Conagra has not recalled the products or accepted responsibility for these injuries. They have stated that the product is safe when the instructions are followed. They say that the product is labeled correctly with cautions on the packaging.
At the same time, the company has changed its design of these larger cans to match that of other cooking spray cans. Since the other products have not been taken off the shelf, they are still accessible for consumers. Anyone who has one of these larger cans should look on the bottom of the cans for the vents. They are U-shaped marks, which you can use to identify the defective products. These cans should not be used but should be disposed of safely.
Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder Recalled
Johnson & Johnson has issued a recall on its baby powder based on testing done by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). When the FDA conducted a test on a sample from a lot of baby powder, it found traces of chrysotile fibers, which is a type of asbestos and a cancer-causing substance.
The FDA supports the quality of the testing and says that it has not heard of any adverse reactions due to exposure, but it warns consumers to not use the baby powder from the affected batch.
The affected product comes from a single batch of 33,000 bottles. J&J is issuing a refund to all customers who purchased one of the bottles. The levels of the fibers found in the powder were very small at 0.00002 percent and it isn’t known how the fibers got into the product. There is the possibility of cross-contamination, but there is also concern that the sample may have come from a bottle without a solid seal. The agency is also checking to ensure the tested sample was authentic.
Johnson & Johnson stated that no asbestos has been found in the talc products over the last 40 years, including tests completed in the past months. Even the FDA tests have found that the products were safe.
Talc’s Common Uses
Talc is a natural mineral found in the earth the same as asbestos. However, asbestos is carcinogenic while talc is safe for use. Because the two minerals are often found close to each other, mining companies must be careful in choosing the sites. They must also be cautious in testing the ore to ensure safety for the general public with the products that use talc.
Talc is most often seen in baby powder and other powders. It’s also used in cosmetics because it acts as a drying agent. Because of the likelihood that talc and asbestos are in the same location, the FDA has remained active in monitoring for asbestos in products that contain talc. In fact, the agency has found asbestos in other products with talc. Two examples are Justice and Claire’s cosmetic products in recent months.
Asbestos Can Cause Cancer
Asbestos has been linked to mesothelioma, a cancer that is found in the tissue which lines some of the organs, including the lungs, heart and stomach. When a person breathes in asbestos, it doesn’t leave the system, instead getting trapped in the tissues. Over time, the amount of asbestos builds up and can cause cancer.
A person with this type of cancer often begins showing symptoms by a persistent cough and chest pain, along with fatigue and sometimes night sweats. While the cancer is rare, it is most often seen in people who have been exposed to asbestos. Treatment includes chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy. Many people die of this disease, especially if they aren’t diagnosed until the late stages.
While the amount found in the Johnson & Johnson baby powder isn’t believed to be enough to cause cancer, it’s best to take precautions and stop using the product from the affected lot.
Exposure to Man-Made Chemicals Could Inhibit Brain Function
A study from the Georgetown University Medical Center shows that toxic chemicals made by people which linger in the environment could impair brain function. This study is believed to be the first to focus on PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls and the impact to the cells which provide support for neurons and the central nervous system.
How PCBs Impact the Brain
The research was done on the brain cells of mice in laboratory tests. According to researchers, the study shows how important the astrocytes are for brain function and how much they are impacted by PCBs. The astrocytes not only support the neurons in the brain, they regulate communication between them and maintain the barrier between blood and brain. They also repair nervous tissue after an injury occurs. If these cells don’t do their jobs, neurons die.
PCBs have other negative consequences, including disruption of hormone signals, preventing the immune system from working properly and inhibiting reproduction as well as causing cancer. The chemicals are linked with killing certain brain cells in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
These chemicals were popular because they are resistant to heat, stable and insulated. PCBs were used in lubricants, paints, coolants, flame retardants, adhesives and many other products. Production of the chemicals ended in 2001 when the dangers became more apparent. However, their stability means they persist in the environment even years later. PCBs have been linked with the decline of the population of killer whales in existence.
In certain regions of the world, the people may be constantly exposed to these chemicals. At this time, it’s not possible to remove the chemicals from a person’s system. However, the goal is to find ways to compensate for the damage through other treatments, which would help the person continue to function as normally as possible.
PCBs May Cause Many Cancers
PCBs are a probable carcinogen. Studies of the chemicals have shown an increased risk for several cancers, including the following:
- Liver cancer
- Brain cancer
- Gall bladder cancer
- Gastrointestinal tract cancer
- Biliary tract cancer
It may also be linked to breast cancer. These chemicals may also cause developmental problems for babies when the pregnant mothers are exposed. In one study, the babies who were born to exposed mothers had lower birth weights and head sizes. They also scored lower on memory, behavioral and psychomotor tests for the first seven years.
Today, the most common way to be exposed to PCBs is by eating contaminated fish or breathing the air near contaminated areas. PCBs don’t leave the body, so they can accumulate over time. These chemicals have been found all around the world and they don’t go away. Many experts believe that PCBs can spread through the air along with the water. Higher concentrates of the chemicals are found with more exposure. For instance, a child born to a mother who was exposed may have a higher concentrate than the parent. Some of these PCBs become nontoxic, but it takes many years for the process to be completed.
School Buses Being Recalled Across the Country
Over 50,000 school buses have a safety issue and are being recalled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The buses are from the 2014-2020 model years. The recall is for safety and involves a seat issue.
According to the NHTSA, the seats may not have adequate impact absorption, which could increase the likelihood of injury in a collision. The seats are SynTec S3B and S3C, made with styrene blocks. There isn’t enough absorption around the seat frame, which is made of steel. It would not provide adequate support if there is a crash and it doesn’t meet federal regulations for school buses.
The vehicles involved include the following Thomas Built vehicles:
- Saf-T-Liner EFX
- Saf-T-Liner C2
- Saf-T-Liner HDX
Daimler Trucks North America must alert all dealers and bus owners about the recall. The company has stated that it will add more impact material and then re-bond the back of the seats and vinyl cover at no cost to the customer. The recall should start around December 2. School districts are waiting for the list of VINs to be released to know which buses are impacted by the recall.
School Buses are Safe
School buses are generally safer than other vehicles with fewer injuries and fatalities noted in crashes. The buses are designed differently, which makes them about seven times safer than a passenger vehicle, according to the NHTSA. They are heavier than other vehicles and distribute the force of a crash in a different way. The close seats include seat backs which absorb energy from a crash. This design is one reason the recall is important for the safety of the children.
An accident on a bus may include another vehicle or multiple vehicles. It may involve only the bus and another type of obstacle. A child may be injured as they get on or off the bus or even be hurt while waiting for the bus.
Injuries from a bus accident are often minor when they do occur. However, they can be serious, especially in a situation where the bus doesn’t meet safety standards. The design of these seats is to eliminate the need for traditional safety belts. When they don’t absorb the force from the crash, the child is more likely to suffer an injury. It could be a neck or back injury or even head trauma. Sprains and strains are common injuries in any vehicle accident as are fractures and broken bones.
The NHTSA estimates that there are about 450,000 buses on the road, transporting children to and from school with an average of less than ten fatalities in a year. A recall of 50,000 of those vehicles is no small number. While the issue doesn’t reduce the ability of the buses to provide transportation for the kids, it does impact the safety if the vehicle is involved in a collision. This is a nationwide recall, which will impact school districts around the country and must be dealt with to ensure the continued safe transport for the children who attend school in the affected locations.
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