By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Employee unions also are looking into allegations that administrators have begun to retaliate against two workers who’ve been among the most vocal about health worries.
At the very least, county officials have consistently downplayed concerns. One example is an October 2000 memo, circulated to staff, claiming that the one confirmed Legionnaires’ victim "is considered to be in good health at this time."
"Good health" is hardly how Wanda Cherry would have described her condition. After returning to work, she said, she had persistent respiratory problems, and her health fell into general decline. She started having seizures that forced her to surrender her driver’s license. She developed an irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure. And doctors diagnosed her with sarcoidosis, a rare, chronic autoimmune disease of uncertain origin that can cause inflammation in the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, eyes, bones, skin, joints, kidneys and spleen. It could be difficult, however, for Cherry to prove conclusively that the Legionnaires’ precipitated her decline.
Cherry, who’s 51 years old, was eventually allowed to transfer to another work site, but hasn’t worked at all since mid-2003.
The Weeklyreviewed death certificates of employees who died and found no proven link to Legionella, but then, medical professionals do not routinely test for Legionellainfection, even after death. Regardless, nearly all of these deceased workers — about eight in number — would have been at particular risk from Legionella, and other infections, because of their weakened health.
To this day, experts still speculate about the source of the Legionellathat killed all those Legionnaires in Philadelphia. Likewise, the mystery of the Borax building is unlikely to be solved with certainty. Which complicates matters for a county bureaucracy that must make sure its workers are safe, and then persuade them to believe it.
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