Worker's Death Tied to Sandblasting With Nuts

Rare case has Canadian family calling for reforms
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 24, 2017 7:10 AM CDT
Worker's Death Tied to Sandblasting With Nuts
Sandblasting is performed at an undisclosed site.   (Getty Images/kimtaro)

A Canadian man's nut allergy apparently proved fatal after he performed air quality tests at a building where walnut shells were being used to blast paint off the walls. On Oct. 2, Justin Mathews, 33, spent roughly 20 minutes inside an Edmonton fire station where a walnut-based sandblasting product was in use before complaining that he couldn't breathe, report the CBC and National Post. Mathews—who had always been very cautious about his allergy, according to his family—then went into anaphylactic shock and collapsed, his mom says. He was taken off life support five days after arriving at University of Alberta Hospital, where doctors determined he'd suffered damage to 80% of his brain, reports the National Post.

Advanced Remediation Solutions, which performed the sandblasting, says nut oils are removed during processing of walnut-based products that have been used in sandblasting for a decade without causing allergic reactions. But to ensure others aren't injured or killed, Mathews' sister, Shari Reklow, says walnut-based products need to be regulated "in commercial and industrial applications" just as in food. In addition to warnings on product labels, she wants posted warnings about the products at job sites. "How is it OK that my brother walked into a job site where they were blasting it all over?" Reklow says. "If he'd seen a sign or a warning, he wouldn't have even gone in there," Mathews' dad adds, per Allergic Living. (More allergy stories.)

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