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Toxic Risks to Workers and Their Children

Electronics worker and her disabled son open up.

July 2015 — The Center for Public Integrity recently reported on the life of Yvette Flores and her gentle giant son, Mark. While sharing their story of perseverance, The Center for Public Integrity delves deeper into the lack of protections against toxic hazards for workers.

For the first 29 years of Mark's life, Yvette Flores had no reason to suspect that her son's condition was the product of anything other than misfortune. But after responding to a radio ad sponsored by Waters & Kraus in December 2008, her eyes were opened to the dangerous chemicals that she and her unborn son were exposed to.

In the 1970s, Yvette landed a job as an electronics worker building lasers for Spectra-Physics at its Mountain View plant, just northwest of San Jose, California. She loved the independence that the job afforded her and she continued to work at the plant during her pregnancy. Yvette's employer did not make her aware of the chemicals she worked around and never warned her of possible dangers.

Mark was born in 1979 with many problems, and it became clear early on that he was profoundly disabled. Yvette would learn many years later that she had been exposed to lead and the solvent methanol, both of which can sabotage a fetus.

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"An estimated 7.9 million children are born annually with a serious birth defect."

Christianson, A., et al. March of Dimes Global Report of Birth Defects: The Hidden Toll of Dying and Disabled Children (pdf). (2006) (accessed August 28, 2008).