Tongan man awarded NZ$ 3 million compensation after inhaling toxic chemicals

A Tongan-American man who suffered a disease that caused more than a half of his lung fail to function properly has been awarded a NZ$ 3,457,562.76 after an Orange jury in the United States announced its verdict last week.

Tanu Vatuvei, 38, of Lenox suffered a severe lung disease that “characterized by fixed airway obstruction” after years of inhaling diacetyl at his workplace. Diacetyl is a chemical “commonly used in the food flavouring industry to mimic the taste and texture of butter”, prnewswire website reported.

In court, the trial attorney for Mr. Vatuvei, Mr. Jacob Plattenberger said: “Tanu did nothing wrong, he simply went to work, day in and day out, without complaint, and for that, the defendants robbed him of a normal life by exposing him to toxic chemicals without his knowledge,” it said.

Vatuvei’s  attorneys argued the supplier of the chemical, Citrus and Allied Essences Ltd., “was aware of the hazards of breathing it in, but did nothing to warn the employees about it”.

Diagnosing with “bronchiolitis obliterans”, the effect of the toxic chemical affected Vatuvei’s life condition “to the point where it is difficult for him to get around without losing his breath”, according to the news.

The website said: “Vatuvei, worked with diacetyl on a daily basis for nearly ten years at an Orange County flavor manufacturing plant, Mission Flavors & Fragrances, Inc”.

When he was at the age of 34, “Mr. Vatuvei contracted bronchiolitis obliterans as a result of his exposure to diacetyl and he was left with only 40% of his lung function”.

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