SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- A global manufacturer that touts itself as being environmentally friendly is under fire after a recent study found the air quality inside its Orange County facility was worse than the average air quality of the outdoors.
On Wednesday, a group of employees of Kingspan Light + Air in Santa Ana held a protest, calling on the company to clean up its operations.
"We're in the center of the building, and all the big doors basically push the air inwards," said Lucas Hernandez, a welder for the company who said he was forced to bring his own respirator to work to help filter out the smoke when he's welding. "It doesn't actually extract any of the smoke out, it just stays in there."
According to the company's website, Kingspan is "planet passionate" and has spearheaded numerous initiatives and programs designed to tackle global environmental issues.
However, some workers - who weld, paint, make fiberglass, and assemble skylights - claim they've been able to document pollution inside the facility and other violations.
In August 2020, workers at two Kingspan facilities wore air quality devices to work to measure indoor pollution.
"I literally hung it off my belt loop," said Hernandez of the device. "At first, I was a little nervous, like, going in because I was like, 'Is someone going to notice? Is management going to say anything?'"
Dr. Shahir Masri, an air pollution scientist at UC Irvine, analyzed the data provided by Kingspan workers. Soon after, workers filed complaints with Cal/OSHA alleging violations of worker safety.
"There's been a wide array of studies that show PM 2.5 exposure is associated with aggravated asthma, cardiovascular disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)," explained Masri.
Kingspan issued a statement to Eyewitness News regarding the study and Wednesday's protest, which reads in part, "We are committed to following all rules and regulations and pride ourselves on our safety record. If improvements need to be made, we make them."
The company also said it's working directly with employees while also engaging safety experts to make recommendations.
"After our information came out, after we told the company that we're planning to unionize again, is when they started [saying,] 'Oh, what can we do to fix things?'"