More strange workplace news from San Francisco, this time involving opera singers:
A singer is suing the San Francisco Opera Association, blaming her asthma attacks
and other ailments on the ephemeral mist produced by the Opera's fog machines.
Alexandra Nehra, a member of the Opera's chorus for more than 17 years, said
in her lawsuit that she had first fallen ill while performing Nov. 30, 1999.
"She was onstage, and she had a severe allergic attack," her lawyer,
Michael Papuc, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "She was coughing up a
thick, black substance. It was pretty bad."
The Chronicle reports that several singers have long complained that the fog
is a health risk. But theater and opera producers have long countered with studies
showing that stage fog does not pose a significant health risk. In 1994, the
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health published a study of 224
Broadway actors that concluded fake fog was not a cause of asthma.
Nevertheless, the California Department of Health Services, responding to a
complaint, surveyed San Francisco Opera employees in 2000 and found unusually
high levels of respiratory problems. Fifteen employees, 24 percent of those
surveyed, complained that their symptoms were triggered by theatrical fog, according
to the Chronicle.
Opera officials declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying they hadn't seen
it yet. In the past, they have insisted that the Opera's fog machines - which
use a spoonful of mineral oil to create a performance's worth of cloudiness
- are safe.
The health committee of the city's Board of Supervisors has scheduled a hearing
on the matter, at the instigation of Supervisor Chris Daly. "I thought
it was serious enough to warrant a hearing," Daly said.
The San Francisco Chronicle