The Pymm Thermometer Corporation of Brooklyn, NY, two of its executives and a plant foreman were
indicted on charges of criminally assaulting and recklessly endangering the lives of their workers by
"knowingly and continually" having them exposed to toxic mercury. It was the first time that criminal
charges had been brought in NY against corporate executives for wrongful exposure of workers to toxic
chemicals. The indictment says that one of the 80 employees of the plant suffered permanent brain damage
from mercury poisoning and the defendants were charged with assaulting the man with mercury as the
weapon. According to the state attorney general, an undetermined number of other employees were
endangered by the mercury, a chemical that has been linked to kidney damage and loss of vision. The
Pymm defendants established a covert mercury-recovery operation in Apr. 1983 in the cellar of the plant and
managed to hide it from federal inspectors until Oct. 1985. The injured employee worked in the cellar for 11
months, where he received the exposure that led to his injuries. The defendants, also accused of conspiracy
and falsifying business records, pleaded not guilty.
--Peter Montague, Ph.D.
Descriptor terms: ny; pymm thermometer corporation; poisons; corporations; mercury; workers; enforcement; occupational safety and health; toxic heavy metals; indictments;