Database Finds More than 250 Contaminants in Tap Water

Have you had your daily dose of arsenic? If you live in 32 U.S. states, that may not be a far-fetched question. According to a database recently published by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), 365 public water utilities exceeded the legal limits for the substance in 2015.

Between 2010 and 2015, the EWG analyzed the water quality for 48,000 public utilities. EWG’s final database breaks down what exactly is in the nation’s water, listing both EPA-regulated contaminants and non-regulated contaminants.

There are 93 chemicals linked to cancer in America’s tap water.

Nationwide, the EWG reports, there are 93 contaminants linked to cancer in our tap water.

The website also tells you if the contamination level in your water exceeds health guidelines—the concentration level at which scientists believe can cause harm—which are much lower than the standards federal authorities use. Based on scientific guidelines, more than 80% of water utilities nationwide contain dangerous levels of carcinogens in their drinking water.

Many of the contaminants that were detected are naturally occurring, but some, like herbicides and benzeneraise questions of the impact that agriculture and industrial polluters have on our water supply.

Top Offenders: Disinfection By-Products, Arsenic  

1.6 million Americans drink water that exceeds legal limits for TTHMs, chemicals that may cause blood cancer or skin cancer.

Disinfection by-products and arsenic are among the most common toxins that exceed legal limits in our water.

Disinfection by-products are created when disinfectants (like chlorine) react with naturally occurring minerals during water disinfection processes. This reaction creates Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) and Haloacetic Acids (HAA5), both of which may be harmful if consumed in large quantities.

Exposure to TTHMs and HAA5 may cause cancer or harm fetal growth and development. Yet, 1.6 million Americans drink water that exceeds federal regulations for TTHMs, and, 658,000 are left with water that exceeds legal limits for HAA5.

Tap water can also become contaminated with arsenic, which is naturally present in groundwater, as a result of agricultural practices and mining.

Arsenic poisoning can be deadly. Signs of poisoning include vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Long-term complications can include heart disease, cancer, and harm to the central nervous system or brain.

According to the EWG’s data, 531,000 Americans have tap water that exceeds the legal limits for arsenic.

Do Legal Limits Guarantee Safety?

Regulations under the Safe Drinking Water Act may be misleading though, as the EWG and other scientists believe our health can be negatively affected by drinking much lower concentrations of these contaminants. Because of this, they created new safety benchmarks so consumers have a better understanding of the safety of their tap water.

Take arsenic, for example. According to the EWG’s benchmark, 70 million people have dangerous levels of arsenic in their water—a significantly higher number than what federal authorities report.

Other chemicals are even more concerning.

The EPA defines 1,4-dioxane, a contaminant that is present in 22% of cosmetic products, as a “likely carcinogen.” 

There is still no legal limit for 1,4-dioxane. But according to EWG’s guidelines, forty-six states have at least one water utility with alarming levels of 1,4-dioxane, affecting 90 million people.

Database Reveals Agriculture is Contaminating Our Water 

For consumers who try to limit their exposure to pesticides and herbicides by purchasing organic food, there may be one source of exposure they are overlooking: Their drinking water.

The EPA identifies agriculture as the leading cause of water pollution. Runoff can pollute rivers, lakes, and water reservoirs with contaminants from fertilizers and pesticides.

The EWG database identified four herbicides in the tap water in Topeka, Kansas alone: metribuzin (Bayer’s Sencor), metolachlor (Syngenta’s Dual herbicide), acetochlor (a Monsanto herbicide), and dangerous levels of atrazine (made by Syngenta).

Atrazine is the second-most applied herbicide in the U.S. The herbicide may cause cancer and hormone disruption, and even has the potential to change the sex of amphibians, as documented by U.C. Berkeley scientists. Nationwide, 7.6 million Americans have tap water that exceeds health guidelines for atrazine levels.

Roundup, or glyphosate, is even more widely used than atrazine. In addition to being linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, glyphosate is also connected to celiac disease, kidney damage, and it may even harm fetal growth.

Monsanto, Roundup’s manufacturer, is accused of hiding the herbicide’s health risks and coercing EPA scientists to publish scientific results that favor glyphosate. Thousands of agricultural laborers have filed lawsuits against Monsanto alleging that glyphosate caused their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

As evidence piles up that further clouds glyphosate’s safety, three cities are left with glyphosate-contaminated water that surpass what scientists consider to be safe: Gilbert, Louisiana; Egan, Louisiana; and Polk City, Florida.

Tap Water Shows Effects of Industrial Pollution

Agriculture isn’t the only source of water contamination. In 2015, U.S. industries and businesses dumped 191 million pounds of chemicals into rivers and streams, some of which supply our drinking water.

One of those chemicals is chromium-6, the chemical that Erin Brockovich famously fought a utility company over for water contamination in Hinkley, CA. The chemical is linked to cancer, liver damage, and may harm the reproductive system.

Every U.S. state has at least one utility that exceeds the safety recommendations established by scientists, altogether affecting 231 million Americans.

Any exposure to benzene can lower white blood cell counts, yet 32 water utilities exceed health guidelines for the chemical.

Surprisingly, we still lack federal regulations for chromium-6. And the only state that regulates it is California, though the legal limit there is 500 times higher than what scientists recommend, thanks to pressures from the chemical industry.

Another carcinogen that can be traced back to industrial pollution is benzene. The chemical is a particular public health concern for refinery workers and neighboring communities who may inhale the pollutant. 

Benzene is linked to blood cancers like leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Thirty-two water utilities exceed health guidelines for benzene concentration, which may be caused by petroleum spills or wastewater from refineries. But, the number of people affected by benzene could be much higher, as a National Cancer Institute study found that any exposure to benzene could lower white blood cell counts.

What Can You Do to Protect Your Health?

Familiarize yourself with what’s in your family’s tap water by entering your zip code in the tap water database.

Many contaminants can be filtered out by using a water filter. However, if there are chemicals in your water that exceed federal or health guidelines (the database will tell you), consider writing to your local officials.

Asbestos Regulations Can’t Stop Mesothelioma Deaths

Though asbestos has been regulated in the U.S. since 1971, people are still dying from it.

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deaths from mesothelioma—an aggressive lung cancer almost solely caused from asbestos exposure—increased by 4.8% from 1999 to 2015. Altogether, there were 45,221 mesothelioma deaths in the U.S. during that time period.

Given the steep decline in asbestos use, why are people still dying from this disease? For one thing, mesothelioma can have an extremely long latency period; it can take decades to develop. But that doesn’t explain why the CDC continues to report deaths of Americans under the age of 55.

The U.S. Imported 350 Tons of Asbestos in 2015

Though heavily regulated, asbestos—incredibly—remains legal in America. In 2015, the U.S. imported 350 tons of asbestos to produce everything from soap to alkaline batteries.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publishes a list of legal asbestos-containing products. Asbestos is most commonly used in automobile parts and building materials, including:

  • Automobile clutches
  • Brake pads
  • Vinyl floor tile
  • Roofing materials

OSHA Violations Expose Workers to Asbestos

In the 20th century, the construction industry used 70-80 percent of America’s asbestos. So while asbestos is still used in some new products, workers are more likely to encounter the carcinogen when replacing materials or remodeling older buildings.

Any time asbestos is disturbed, the mineral can release shard-like fibers into the air. If inhaled or swallowed, these fibers can eventually cause cancer.

Twenty percent of air samples collected at construction sites exceeded the legal limits for asbestos exposure.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has strict safety requirements to protect workers. Employees must be trained on how to recognize and remove asbestos, and employers must provide protective clothing and respirators. When removing asbestos, the area must be enclosed and an air filtration or collection device, like a HEPA vacuum, must be used to trap asbestos particles.

But just because rules exist doesn’t necessarily mean they will be followed. In 2003, the CDC found that 20 percent of air samples collected at construction sites exceeded the legal limits for asbestos exposure.

Not only are workers endangered when employers cut corners, but so are their families. Even the smallest amount of asbestos exposure—like hugging a loved one who is wearing asbestos-contaminated clothing—can eventually cause mesothelioma.

OSHA Hits Companies with Million-Dollar Fines

In 2015, two construction companies in southern Illinois—Kehrer Brothers Construction and D7 Roofing—were hit with a combined $1.9 million in fines for violating OSHA asbestos regulations.

“These workers will carry the increased risk of cancer for the rest of their lives.”

OSHA alleged that the companies instructed workers to remove asbestos, but didn’t provide them with basic safety equipment like helmets, nor did they follow rules for asbestos removal. The agency alleged that these violations increased workers’ exposure to the carcinogen.

“The size of the fine is a statement about the gravity of the situation,” said David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. “These workers will carry the increased risk of cancer for the rest of their lives.”

Promotional display maker AMD Industries, based in Illinois, was also hit with $1.25 million in fines when they failed to protect workers from asbestos exposure. In 2011, OSHA penalized the company when it was discovered that five employees were instructed to remove asbestos without receiving respirators.

A safety audit of the AMD facility revealed asbestos material on boilers, heating units, and piping.

“License to Kill” Bill Dims Hopes of Asbestos Ban

Lawmakers and health organizations have tried repeatedly to ban asbestos completely. The EPA managed to temporarily ban the carcinogen in 1989, but two years later it was overturned.

More recent attempts include Senator Patty Murray’s (D-WA) Ban Asbestos in America Act, which passed in the Senate in 2007 but ultimately failed to become a law.

Under the guise of “cutting red tape,” the bill would paralyze agencies like the EPA from taking action against toxic chemicals.

Last year, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was amended to allow the EPA more authority to regulate and ban toxic substances. The EPA immediately prioritized asbestos for a safety review.

However, with budget cuts left and right, and potentially dangerous bills being introduced that threaten the EPA’s authority, it’s likely an asbestos ban won’t happen anytime soon.

One particular bill, the Regulatory Accountability Act, is being referred to by some as the “License to Kill” bill.

Under the guise of “cutting red tape,” the bill would essentially paralyze agencies like the EPA from taking action against toxic chemicals, sweeping the TSCA reforms under the rug.

Public Citizen, a consumer rights group, estimates that it would add 53 steps for agencies to pass major rules and regulations. Opponents argue that this lengthy rule making process would create more opportunities for special corporate interests to derail regulations and bans on dangerous chemicals.

H.R. 5, as the bill is formerly known, was passed by the House of Representatives and now awaits a Senate vote. 

We’re Fighting for Mesothelioma Victims

There is still one place for mesothelioma victims to fight back, and that’s in court.

If you or a loved one were diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be eligible for a lawsuit. Contact our attorneys for a free consultation to find out if you might be owed money for asbestos exposure. To date, asbestos funds have awarded nearly $20 billion to mesothelioma patients.

Why the EPA Can’t Manage to Ban Known Carcinogens

Of the 80,000 chemicals currently in the marketplace, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has only reviewed the safety of 570. Of those, the EPA has only banned five chemicals. Not on that list? Asbestos, formaldehyde, BPAs, and other known carcinogens.

Before you discredit the EPA as an ineffective agency, or even one that should be abolished altogether as some in Congress are demanding, it’s important to look at the myriad obstacles the agency faces that prevent it from regulating deadly substances.

Nearly every delay and hurdle is traced back to the chemical or energy industry. Industry lobbyists have used every tactic in the book to thwart the EPA, including discrediting the agency’s chemical assessments, sponsoring their own favorable research, and delaying the publication of the EPA’s studies, all while paying off scientists and politicians to support them.

Chemicals Are Considered Safe Until Proven Guilty

62,000 chemicals were grandfathered into the system, with no requirements for testing or meeting safety standards.

The root of the EPA’s problems lies with the flawed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which governs the EPA’s review of toxic chemicals.

When it passed in 1976, 62,000 chemicals were grandfathered into the system, with no requirements for testing or meeting safety standards. The nearly 20,000 chemicals which have come to market since the TSCA’s adoption are almost as good as grandfathered into the system. The EPA’s authority to ask for safety data on a new chemical is extremely limited, allowing new chemicals to come to market without knowing a lot about their effects.

The law is structured to be favorable to the chemical industry as chemicals are considered safe until proven otherwise by the EPA. In the E.U., however, this is backwards: The burden is on companies to prove the safety of new chemicals before they are introduced in the marketplace.

In 2016, Congress amended TSCA to allow the EPA greater authority to review and ban chemicals. Last December, the EPA announced their 10 priority chemicals for review which included asbestos. Though it’s a positive step, critics have argued that the new bill will weaken effective state chemical safety laws and do nothing to speed up the review process. 

EPA’s Assessments Suffer from the “Highest Risk of Failure”

Before banning or restricting a chemical, the EPA has to conduct its own formal review of the existing research on the safety and effects of a substance.

The EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) is the agency branch that reviews chemical research to determine what the safe level of exposure is in the air, food, water, and soil. Their assessments are then used by regulators to restrict or ban various chemicals.

An IRIS review is a major undertaking; an average report will take seven years to complete. The EPA says that it needs to complete 50 of these assessments every year in order to do its job effectively. Yet throughout the Bush administration, an average of five chemicals were reviewed every year. Obama’s administration wasn’t any better: In 2014, the agency only completed one review. That was better than 2015 though, which didn’t produce a single report.

In 2011, out of the 500 chemicals in the IRIS program under review, almost 400 of them were more than 10 years in the making.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2009, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) stated that IRIS had the “highest risk of failure” of any federal government department.

Chemical Industry Relies on “Scientists for Hire”

TSCA-Reform-Infographic
Credit: Center for Environmental Health

What’s the reason behind these slow-moving reviews? Primarily industry lobbyists.

Delaying research is the primary weapon in the chemical industry’s arsenal. By forcing the EPA to get second opinions, make edits, present their research again, go through another round of reviews, and so on, not only does it delay report publications for years, but it also helps to make the agency look less credible.

“I have never seen the chemical industry say, ‘Oh, wow! It looks from all of these data and the public literature like we had better start being safer with this chemical.’ They, in my experience, have always defended their chemical, tried to show that it’s safer, or less toxic, than what independent studies show,” said Jennifer Sass, a scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), in an article for Time magazine.

According to the NRDC, chemical companies will put forth their own research to settle the “debates” within the scientific community (debates which only exist in pro-industry minds).

14% of industry studies found chemicals like formaldehyde were hazardous, compared to 60% of non-industry studies.

Industry-funded research, not surprisingly, favors the industry. A study by the Center for Public Integrity found that 14% of industry studies on chemicals like atrazine and formaldehyde (carcinogens which have yet to be banned) found these chemicals were hazardous, compared to 60% of non-industry studies.

There are even pro-industry research journals: Critical Reviews in Analytical Chemistry and Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology. A Vice investigation revealed that one Harvard researcher, Philippe Grandjean, joined the Critical Reviews editorial board in hopes of scientific partnership but resigned when they published two articles denying OSHA’s research that linked lung cancer to diesel fumes, just for the sake of creating public doubt.

Once published, companies will host workshops to discuss the results, and fill them with industry-funded scientists that conclude what the industry wants to hear: that the chemical of concern is safe.

A group that is often represented is Gradient, whose clients include the American Chemistry Council (ACC), an association that represents chemical companies. The Center for Public Integrity reports that half of all of the papers published by Gradient scientists were published by industry-backed publications. Critics refer to them as “scientists for hire.”

Even if experts are aware of the red flags to look out for with industry-funded research, the more of it there is, the more confusing it makes the field of research. Said Jennifer Sass in an article for Vice, “The harm is that it actually muddies the independent scientific literature.”

Whistleblower Reveals EPA Reviews Have Ties to Industry

“The study ended up being the basis for this industry getting yet another exemption from federal law.”

During the “Making EPA Great Again” congressional hearing earlier this month, hosted by the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, critics argued that the EPA’s research lacks sufficient peer reviewthat they only work with those who share their anti-industry, pro-green opinions, resulting in the agency operating within an “echo chamber,” as Rep. Lucas (R-OK) described.

Among those invited to participate in the hearing was a scientist for the American Chemistry Council, Dr. Kimberly White. She emphasized the importance of allowing diverse voices from all over the industry to review and contribute to the EPA’s assessments, using sources other than the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, which, it should be noted, recruits members using a public open-call for nominations.

When pro-industry groups like the American Chemistry Council have their way and are involved in EPA reviews, the quality of reports usually suffer.

In 2004, the EPA investigated whether hydrofracking should fall under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Early on, a draft referred to dangerous levels of contamination caused by hydrofracking and possible contamination of an aquifer. The final report, however, stated that the practice “poses little or no threat to drinking water.”

“The study ended up being the basis for this industry getting yet another exemption from federal law when it should have resulted in greater regulation of this industry,” Weston Wilson, an EPA whistleblower told The New York Times. He revealed that five of the seven review panel members had ties to the oil and gas industry.

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Volkswagen, Chrysler Owe Billions for Emissions Cheating

A decade-long conspiracy to cheat U.S. emission tests—and drivers—has now cost Volkswagen $22 billion and counting.

VW has reached a $4.3 billion agreement with the Justice Department stemming from its Dieselgate scandal.

In the latest financial blow, the German automaker has reached a $4.3 billion agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, which will cover criminal and civil charges stemming from its Dieselgate scandal.

VW equipped almost 600,000 American diesel vehicles with devices that would cheat U.S. emissions tests by showing nitrogen oxide emissions exponentially lower than what the cars would emit on the road.

The devices were discovered in 2014. In September 2015, VW admitted to installing the defeat devices, but not the length or extent of its conspiracy.

Last year, the company reached a $15 billion settlement with owners of 2.0-liter “Clean Diesel” vehicles, and a $1 billion settlement with owners of 3.0-liter vehicles.

Of the $4.3 billion under the terms of the new settlement (which still must receive final approval from a judge), $2.8 billion will serve as a criminal penalty, while $1.5 billion will go to civil lawsuit resolutions.

Hold VW Accountable

VW Cops to Obstruction of Justice

By agreeing to the $4.3 billion deal with the Justice Department, Volkswagen has pled guilty to the following charges:

  • Violating the Clean Air Act
  • Conspiring to defraud the U.S. government
  • Conspiring to defraud American customers
  • Covering up the Dieselgate scheme
  • Obstruction of justice (destroying pertinent records related to the scheme)
  • Supplying false statements when importing these cars to the U.S.

In accepting the deal, VW also agrees to a three-year probationary period.

The company conceded to the Justice Department that the emission-cheating scandal was hatched in May 2006, more than ten years ago. Over the course of that decade, VW concealed and destroyed documents that would have revealed its scheme.

Due to the severity and extent of this cover-up, several Volkswagen executives also face serious charges for their roles in the Dieselgate scandal.

Six VW Execs Charged with Conspiracy and Fraud

A federal grand jury in Michigan has indicted the following six VW officials for carrying out the emissions cheating scheme and defrauding American drivers:

  • Richard Dorenkamp (68)
  • Bernd Gottweis (69)
  • Jens Hadler (50)
  • Heinz-Jakob Neusser (56)
  • Jürgen Peter (59)
  • Oliver Schmidt (48)

The grand jury also indicted the executives for violating the Clean Air Act.

One of the VW officials, Oliver Schmidt, was arrested while vacationing in Miami earlier this month. The other five live in Germany and will presumably stay out of the U.S. in order to avoid being arrested.

The U.S. government has faced criticism in the past for punishing corporations for white-collar crimes, but not the people who run those corporations and perpetrate those crimes. For some, the indictment of several VW executives represented a welcome break in that pattern.

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said, “This wasn’t simply the action of some faceless, multinational corporation. This conspiracy involved flesh-and-blood individuals who used their positions within Volkswagen to deceive both regulators and consumers.”

As a result, more charges could be on the way for other VW employees who engaged in the scheme to defraud drivers, the U.S. government, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Fiat Chrysler Allegedly Cheated on Emissions, Too

Late last week, the EPA said that Fiat Chrysler, too, misled regulators with regard to at least 104,000 of its vehicles, namely Jeep Cherokee and Dodge Ram trucks (2014-2016). Like many of VW’s Dieselgate vehicles, these trucks have 3.0-liter diesel engines.

Fiat Chrysler now faces a $4.6 billion fine for failing to disclose emissions software.

Fiat Chrysler now faces a $4.6 billion fine for failing to disclose that these vehicles have software that can switch off emission controls while driving.

The depths of Fiat Chrysler’s scheme are not yet clear. John German, a senior fellow at the International Council on Clean Transportation, told the Irish Times that the cases are “quite different,” adding that “we don’t know how often the emissions controls were shut off.”

The EPA has not yet used the terms “cheat device” or “cheat software,” so it’s possible Fiat Chrysler’s violation was more of an innocent mistake (or just a smaller, less egregious cheat) than VW’s. We won’t know until the EPA and the Justice Department conclude their investigations.

What is clear is that automakers continue to cheat American regulators and drivers, with no regard for their schemes’ impact on the environment—or on people’s wallets.

Why a Bayer-Monsanto Merger Could Spell Disaster for Our Food Supply

Combined with Monsanto, Bayer would control a quarter of the world’s seeds and pesticides, potentially affecting the world’s food supply, ecosystem, and supermarket prices.

A merger between Monsanto (the company behind GMOs and the herbicide Roundup) and Bayer (the pharmaceutical company that manufacturers pesticides and seeds under Bayer CropScience) is gathering momentum. Earlier this week, Monsanto shareholders approved Bayer’s $66 billion offer to acquire the company: the largest all-cash offer in history.

What makes this potential merger so important—and scary—is just how powerful it would make Bayer. Combined with Monsanto, they would control a quarter of the seeds and pesticides market worldwide, potentially affecting the world’s food supply, ecosystem, and supermarket prices.

Small farmers, consumers, scientists, and politicians alike hope that the merger will be rejected by antitrust regulators. But with shareholders on board and a new administration on the horizon, the merger may be approved.

Merger Raises Red Flags for Antitrust Regulators 

If the merger is approved, Bayer would own 29% of seeds and 28% of pesticides worldwide. The sheer size of the new company, combined with the similarity of Monsanto and Bayer’s businesses, raises antitrust red flags.

The century-old Sherman Antitrust Act and Clayton Antitrust Act help prevent mergers and acquisitions of this size. Primarily, regulators are concerned about reduced competition which can inhibit innovation, result in price fixing, and leave consumers and employees vulnerable to abusive business practices.

As a preventative measure, large mergers and acquisitions must be reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice. This is where Bayer may stumble. The current administration has strictly opposed large mergers, like Staples and Office Depot, among others.

But Bayer may benefit from a change in administration. The company is so optimistic that it promised Monsanto shareholders a $2 billion termination fee if blocked.

“A Marriage Made in Hell” 

If approved, environmental experts warn the merger would be a “marriage made in hell.” After examining the harmful track record of their products, this description may not be far off.

Monsanto is known for a long list of dangerous and controversial biotechnology, including Agent Orange, PCBs, GMOs, and the carcinogenic pesticide RoundUp.

Like Monsanto, Bayer also has a line of genetically engineered (GE) seeds and herbicides and pesticides. Most dangerous are Bayer’s neonicotinoids—pesticides that are the primary cause of the destruction of bee colonies.

Bayer argues that acquiring Monsanto will help the company better address greater demands on the world’s food supply, primarily by selling GE seeds. GE seed cells are modified so that they are resistant to the powerful herbicides and insecticides Monsanto and Bayer sell. By planting GE crops, the companies argue, farmers are able to produce greater crop yields and decrease the overall amount of herbicides and pesticides they spray. 

Farmers Will Pay Higher Seed Prices

What does a Bayer-Monsanto merger mean for the average farmer and consumer? Farmers will first notice higher seed prices and few non-GE alternatives—a cost eventually felt by consumers in the supermarket. 

GE seeds are particularly pricey because they are registered as intellectual property. This prevents farmers from reusing their seeds, a millennia-old farming practice. 

Corn and soy seed prices have increased more than 300 percent since 1995.

Since the introduction of GMOs 20 years ago, seed prices have only gone up. According to Farm Aid’s Alicia Harvie, corn and soy seed prices have increased more than 300 percent since 1995.

Farmers looking for alternatives to genetically engineered seeds are having a harder time finding them. Charles Benbrook, a research professor at Washington State University, found that between 2000 and 2010, non-GE corn seed varieties decreased by 67 percent. Similar trends were found for other plants, including sugar beets, for which Monsanto owns 95% of the seeds.

More Herbicide Will Be Sprayed

Credit: www.justlabelit.org
Credit: www.justlabelit.org

In addition to pricier seeds, farmers are also faced with having to spend more on the seeds’ accompanying herbicides.

After years of spraying, weeds eventually adapt to the herbicides and become resistant to it. This leaves farmers with “super weeds,” requiring them to spray greater quantities of stronger chemicals. 

A study by The New York Times found that since genetically engineered seeds were introduced, herbicide use increased by one-fifth in the U.S. and Canada—countries reliant on GE seeds. In France, a country that is GMO-free, herbicide usage dropped by one-third.

Aside from the costs to farmers, higher quantities of herbicides is also bad news for the health of consumers and the environment. Monsanto’s Roundup is a carcinogen that puts farmers and gardeners that use the spray at a greater risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Lingering herbicide residue left on food is also linked to a rise in food allergies, especially gluten intolerance like celiac disease.

Hold Monsanto Accountable

A Potential Disaster for Bees and Biodiversity

Bayer and Monsanto argue that their merger would help to feed a growing world population, but it may actually lead to more food shortages.

The New York Times discovered that over GMOs’ 20-year history, they have not resulted in an increased food supply. What Monsanto and Bayer have managed to do, though, is severely damage the ecosystem—a trend that is likely to result in major food crises in the future.

Pesticides like Bayer’s neonicotinoids have decimated the world’s populations of natural pollinators. Ninety percent of the monarch butterfly population has died over the last 20 years, and between 2006 and 2012, the USDA reported that 10 million beehives were lost

Environmental experts estimate that the work of pollinators equates to $15 billion in agricultural labor. Because of the severity of the crisis, the EPA is  taking steps to regulate neonicotinoids

But Bayer’s pesticides aren’t the only threat to the environment. By using identical genetically modified seeds, companies like Bayer and Monsanto destroy biological diversity. Biodiversity is important because it helps reduce the spread of crop diseases. If every crop has the same genetic makeup, a disease has the potential to wipe out a huge portion of our food supply.

Giving so much control to one company—especially one that is hurting farmers, the ecosystem, and our health—may spell disaster for our food supply.

9/11 Survivors Battle PTSD and Cancer 15 Years Later

The 9/11 terrorist attacks marked the second deadliest day on U.S. soil—second only to the Civil War’s Battle of Antietam. However, unlike some battles and acts of terror, we are still counting the casualties of 9/11 to this day.

The traumatic scenes and the dust cloud that encompassed Lower Manhattan are still affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of survivors. While the mental health issues this group faces have been known for a while, we are only now beginning to understand the long-term effects of the toxic dust. 

400,000 Were in the World Trade Center Disaster Area

WTC_disaster_area
World Trade Center Disaster Area

Overall, it’s estimated that 400,000 were in Lower Manhattan on the morning of September 11, 2001. This group includes workers who fled the towers; rescue workers; passerby who got caught in the cloud; and the people who lived, worked, or went to school in Lower Manhattan.

Out of 400,000, only 75,000 have enrolled in the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program, making it hard to track the full extent of the health complications suffered by survivors.

Health professionals worry that many in this group aren’t coming forward because they weren’t part of the rescue mission or in the towers. However, the deadly dust and the psychologically traumatic events did not discriminate between first responder or passerby: Anyone in the area could face health complications.

As of July 2016, independent reports estimated that 1,140 survivors had died from 9/11 complications.

12,000 Suffered From Mental Health Issues

Rescue workers, cleanup workers, and those who were near Ground Zero and watched the events unfold suffer from a host of mental health issues, including PTSD, depression, memory loss, panic attacks, and substance abuse.

To date:

Passerby suffered the highest rates of PTSD symptoms.

Mental health experts argue that non-emergency workers suffered more from PTSD because they weren’t necessarily trained to cope with disasters. In fact, the WTC Health Registry discovered that passerby suffered the highest rates of PTSD symptoms of any other group affected by the attacks (23.2%).

What makes the events of September 11th particularly hard to recover from are the towers’ noticeable absence.

In an article for The New York Times, Charles Figley, professor of disaster mental health at Tulane University, explained how for many, the towers were part of the fabric of daily life, near where people lived, worked, and went to school.

You go into a combat zone and then you leave. You don’t leave home. You return all the time,” said Professor Figley.

9/11 Cancer Diagnoses Triple

In addition to carrying traumatizing memories with them, survivors and rescue workers also carry the deadly dust that was released into Lower Manhattan for months afterwards. The dust (largely made up of pulverized concrete and building materials) coated passerby and the insides of homes and offices nearby when the towers collapsed.

Dr. Michael Crane described the dust as a “witch’s brew.”

Dr. Michael Crane, director of the World Trade Center Health Program’s lead clinical center at Mount Sinai, described the dust as a “witch’s brew”: “What we do know is that it had all kinds of god-awful things in it. Burning jet fuel. Plastics, metal, fiberglass, asbestos. It was thick, terrible stuff.”

Studies show that the dust had high pH levels of 10 and 11 (7.4 is considered healthy). Even worse, ongoing fires at the site of Ground Zero continued to release toxic fumes in the air for months.

New Yorkers, however, were told the air and dust were safe. It was recommended that landlords and building owners professionally clean their properties, but it was never enforced.

The EPA was later criticized (and sued) for endangering the public’s health. Former EPA Director Christine Todd Whitman only formally apologized this year for misinforming the public.

As of June 30, 2016, 9/11 has been linked to 70 types of cancer, and 5,400 cancer diagnoses. This is already triple the number of cancer diagnoses since January 2014.

These numbers, however, only reflect the patients who have enrolled in the federal health program, and are just the earliest wave of cancer diagnoses. Since it can take cancer 15 to 20 years to show symptoms, we are only seeing the first incidents.

Dust Inhalation Caused More Damage Than Years of Smoking

Particle from the World Trade Center dust
Particle from the World Trade Center dust

Immediately after the attacks, New Yorkers filled hospitals with difficulty breathing. The dust took such a toll on lungs that it gave birth to a deadly cough: the “World Trade Center cough” (WTC cough). The persistent cough is accompanied by breathlessness, wheezing, and often acid reflux and nasal congestion.

Since emergency workers were exposed to the dust for longer periods of time, they are particularly susceptible to WTC cough and other health complications. In 2004, researchers discovered that lungs of first responders were more damaged than longtime smokers. CT scans revealed dark spots where air was trapped in the lungs. Using a scale of 0 to 24 (with 24 being the worst) to rate the severity of the problem, researchers put a typical smoker’s lung somewhere between 0 and 4 and a 9/11 rescue worker at 10.55.

Since the attacks, it’s estimated that more than 32,000 in the disaster area have been diagnosed with asthma, COPD, and WTC cough. For many, survivors will have these chronic conditions for life.

Legal Options for 9/11 Victims and Survivors

Just this year, Congress pledged their support for 9/11 victims by amending the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, allowing victims and their families to sue Saudi Arabia for their alleged involvement in the terrorist attacks. If you have questions about your eligibility for a lawsuit, contact ClassAction.com today. We’ll answer your questions and provide you with a free, no-obligation legal review.  

First VW, Now Dodge Accused of Emissions Cheating

As one automaker’s polluting diesel scandal nears an end, another’s is just getting started.

In a major step towards resolving its ongoing diesel emission problems in the United States, Volkswagen recently agreed on a plan addressing 80,000 3.0-liter diesel vehicles.

Meanwhile, Chrysler faces allegations that it rigged Dodge diesel trucks to conceal illegally high emissions.

Owners of affected Volkswagen and Dodge vehicles can contact ClassAction.com to learn how to hold the automakers accountable.

VW Looks to Put Dieselgate in Rearview

Volkswagen, which earlier this year reached a $14.7 billion settlement over polluting 2.0-liter diesel cars, has struck a deal with U.S. regulators that resolves pollution issues in 80,000 Audi, Porsche, and Volkswagen 3.0-liter vehicles.

Although not yet official, Reuters reports that the 3.0-liter deal will mirror terms offered in the 2.0-liter settlement, offering owners a buyback or a fix (pending EPA approval).

The pollution problems in 2.0-liter and 3.0-liter Volkswagens are not identical. Smaller, 4-cylinder VWs, including TDI versions of the Golf, Jetta, and Passat, have software that registered permissible nitrous oxide emissions during testing but polluted at levels up to 40 times the legal limit on the road. Larger, 6-cylinder Porsche, Audi and VW cars and SUVs contain an undeclared emissions system that creates pollutants as much as nine times the legal limit.

Owners of 2.0-liter VWs have overwhelmingly opted for vehicle buybacks, an option which also provides a $5,100-$10,000 payment. VW will offer 3.0-liter owners significantly less compensation, say sources briefed on the matter.

Like the 2.0-liter settlement, the 3.0-liter settlement is expected to include billions of dollars in criminal and civil fines. Nearly one-third of the $14.7 billion 2-liter settlement will go toward remediating environmental harm.

Lawsuit Claims That Dodge Diesels Hide Emissions

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) became the first U.S. automaker hit with emissions cheating claims when it was sued by customers alleging their Dodge trucks have deceptively dirty engines.

A lawsuit accuses Dodge of breaking emissions laws and covering up the problem.

According to a lawsuit filed in Detroit, nearly 500,000 Dodge Ram diesel pickups from 2007 – 2012 emit nitrous oxide (NOx) pollutants as much as 14 times higher than the legal limit. Chrysler and its diesel partner Cummins Inc. are accused of concealing from the public an engine feature that does not break down NOx properly, allowing excess gasses to escape.

Not only does the flaw nearly double emissions, the lawsuit claims, it also reduces fuel efficiency and places excessive strain on the catalytic converter.

Chrysler and Cummings are accused of knowing about but not disclosing the engine flaws. The lawsuit says the alleged fraud resulted from the companies’ attempt to get out ahead of a 2001 regulatory change that cracked down on emissions standards for heavy-duty diesel engines. Their aggressive development efforts, owners say, caused the fraudulent design.

“We believe we have uncovered a deeply entrenched scheme,” said a plaintiffs’ lawyer.

Chrysler and Cummins deny any wrongdoing in the case.

Is Diesel Dead?

Whatever the outcome, the lawsuit casts further doubt on the concept of “clean diesel” technology and the reliability of emissions testing. Diesel cars made by Mercedes Benz, Renault, Nissan, Hyundai, Fiat, Volvo, Jeep, Mazda, and other automakers have all been accused of emitting significantly more pollution on the road than in the lab.

Diesel vehicles, which get better gas mileage than gasoline vehicles but produce more NOx, are more popular in Europe, where NOx standards are less strict. Only about 5 percent of U.S. passenger vehicles are diesel, compared to 80% in Europe.

The VW emissions cheating scandal (coupled with low gas prices) has fueled speculation that the U.S. market for diesel is dead, except for trucks.

Questions or concerns about a diesel vehicle? Contact ClassAction.com and receive a free case review.

Mesothelioma Fatalities Climb as EPA Readies to Finally Ban Asbestos

The cancer-causing side effects of asbestos exposure are well known, but less known is that the mineral is still used and imported in the U.S.

Asbestos is a carcinogenic mineral that was commonly used in building materials (insulation, roof shingles, cement, etc.) for its durability and fire retardant properties. Cosmetic companies also used asbestos-laced talcum for its powder-like consistency.

Once research showed that asbestos caused cancer in the 1970s, its use sharply declined and it was restricted. However, the U.S. is still allowed to import asbestos and some products that have historically used the chemical are allowed to continue to do so.  

Despite 10,000 pages of evidence showing the hazardous effects of the chemical, the asbestos industry shot down the proposed ban.

In 1989, the EPA attempted to ban asbestos. Despite 10,000 pages of evidence showing the hazardous effects of the chemical, the asbestos industry shot down the proposed ban in a federal appeals court.

Congress Pressures EPA to Review Asbestos

The failed ban is a symptom of an overly complex system that leaves the EPA at times powerless. Since the agency’s creation 40 years ago, only five chemicals have been banned and just a small percentage of the 62,000 chemicals on the market have been reviewed.

“The system was so complex, it was so burdensome, that our country hasn’t even been able to uphold a ban on asbestos, a known carcinogen.”

Calling for reform, Congress passed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act this June, which amends the 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act. Under this amendment, the EPA will have more control over regulation of dangerous chemicals.

Said President Obama upon signing the amendment, “The system was so complex, it was so burdensome, that our country hasn’t even been able to uphold a ban on asbestos, a known carcinogen. I think a lot of Americans would be shocked by all of that.”

The EPA is scheduled to announce the first 10 chemicals for review in December. Since Congress singled out asbestos when creating this act, many hope it will be the EPA’s priority.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif.) wrote to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to consider asbestos as a priority chemical: “To build confidence in the agency’s ability to deliver meaningful results for our children and families, EPA must consider all forms of asbestos in this initial list of chemicals it acts on.”

Asbestos Exposure Can Lead to Mesothelioma Decades Later

Asbestos inhalation can severely damage the lungs, resulting in diseases like mesotheliomaa fatal form of canceryears or even decades after exposure.

Mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive form of cancer. 10,000 Americans die from the disease every year. Though asbestos exposure can result in a host of medical conditions, mesothelioma is only caused by exposure to asbestos.

Hold Them Accountable

When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they stick inside the lungs for years. With each inhalation and exhalation, these fibers create abrasions that can eventually develop into cancerous tumors.

Who is at Risk?

Anyone who is exposed to asbestos is at risk of developing mesothelioma. However, those who were regularly in direct contact with asbestos materials are even more at risk. These groups include:

  • Construction workers
  • Railroad workers
  • Shipyard workers
  • Veterans (especially from the U.S. Navy)
  • Mechanics
  • Miners
  • First responders

9/11 Rescue Workers Are Twice As Likely to Develop Mesothelioma

When the twin towers collapsed on September 11, 2001, the building materials released 2,000 tons of asbestos fibers into the air, creating a toxic dust that coated the Financial District.

While cleaning up the disaster zone and searching for bodies, first responders inhaled lethal amounts of asbestos, often with inadequate protection. It is estimated that 41,000 people in total were exposed to asbestos after the disaster.

15 years later, this population is still suffering from the attacks. A 2013 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study found that 9/11 first responders are twice as likely to develop mesothelioma. Since the disease can take decades to develop, the long-term effects of 9/11 are only now starting to show.

Veterans Account for 30% of Mesothelioma Deaths

Damage Control 1st Class William Minniefield collects samples of lagging taken from several different spaces on the ship to see if there are traces of asbestos aboard.
Collecting samples to see if there are traces of asbestos aboard.

Between the 1930s and 1970s, virtually every U.S. Naval ship contained several tons of asbestos, mostly in the ships’ insulation, pipes, and doors.

Now, veterans and Naval shipyard workers are paying the price. Though veterans only make up 8% of the U.S. population, they make up 30% of mesothelioma deaths.

In April of this year, a federal jury in Arizona awarded $17 million in damages to the family of the late George Coulbourn. Mr. Coulbourn worked at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia, where he contracted mesothelioma.

In December of 2014, the family of a former Naval shipfitter received a similar verdict in their favor, totaling $20 million. The family sued the U.S. Navy’s boiler manufacturers for using asbestos in their materials.

Talcum-Based Products Used Asbestos Until the 1970s

Asbestos was also commonly found in Talcum-based products, like baby powder, shave talc, etc. prior to the 1970s. However, many mesothelioma diagnoses are just now being discovered.

In October, Los Angeles-based Philip Depoian received an $18 million verdict in his favor for developing mesothelioma from the talc-based products his father’s barber shop used. Last year, Judith Winkel, also from California, won $13 million in a lawsuit against Colgate-Palmolive for using asbestos in their talc powder, causing her to develop mesothelioma decades later.

What Are My Legal Rights?

If you or a loved one were diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be entitled to compensation. Many companies knew for decades that any exposure to asbestos was dangerous, yet they continued to endanger the health of workers and consumers.

Contact ClassAction.com today for a free, no-obligation legal review. Our attorneys have recovered millions of dollars for hundreds of mesothelioma victims across the United States.

Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Cost U.S. $340 Billion Annually

Chemicals used in everyday products cost the United States more than $340 billion per year in health care and lost earnings, according to a new study.

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals—found in consumer goods that include plastics, metal food cans, furniture, carpeting, toys, detergents, cosmetics, and pesticides—interfere with the body’s endocrine (hormone) system and contribute to developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune dysfunction.

Endocrine disruptors are linked to IQ points loss, autism, ADHD, diabetes, cancer, and more.

In the United States, the economic disease burden of endocrine-disrupting chemicals—which reflects direct treatment costs as well as indirect lost productivity costs—is estimated to be higher than in the European Union, where industrial chemicals are more tightly regulated. Endocrine disruptors cost the U.S. $340 billion per year (2.33% of GDP) and the European Union $217 billion per year (1.28% of GDP).

The greatest difference in U.S. vs. E.U. disease costs, say the study authors, comes from IQ points loss and intellectual disability due to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), a chemical blend used as a flame retardant on furniture. PBDE causes 43,000 annual cases of intellectual disability annually in the U.S., compared to 3,290 in the EU. Europe has restricted PBDEs since 2008.

Costs associated with organophosphates—chemical substances found in pesticides—are significantly lower in the United States ($42 billion) than in Europe ($121 billion). U.S. regulators are stricter about organophosphates than their European counterparts.

Other diseases linked to endocrine disruptors looked at in the study included autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, and endometriosis.

“These findings speak to the large health and economic benefits to regulating endocrine-disrupting chemicals,” senior study author Dr. Leonardo Trasande told Reuters.

Researchers based U.S. data on endocrine-disrupting hormones found in blood and urine samples of patients in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and compared it to the results of an earlier European study.

“Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the USA: a population-based disease burden and cost analysis” is published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.

Differences in U.S., EU Policy Underlie Exposure Disparity

Chemical policy in the United States operates differently in the European Union and helps explains why more people in this country are exposed to chemicals like endocrine disruptors.

“Adults and children in the U.S. carry more industrial chemicals in their bodies than their European counterparts simply due to differences in chemical policies,” public health researcher Joseph Allen of Harvard told Reuters.

European Union chemical policy endorses the precautionary principle, a burden of proof that does not require a substance to be proven absolutely safe. Rather, when the precautionary principle is invoked, a company may be required to prove the absence of danger. This allows potentially hazardous chemicals to be restricted even without a complete scientific evaluation. Only substantial, credible evidence of human or environmental health risks is needed to trigger regulatory action.

U.S. law, which does not formally endorse the precautionary principle, sets a much higher bar for proving a substance is safe. In the U.S., evidence of actual harm must generally be produced before regulatory action is taken.

“Our chemical policy largely follows the approach of our legal system – ‘innocent until proven guilty,’” said Joseph Allen. “This is appropriate for criminal justice policy but has disastrous consequences for health when used for chemical policy.”

Endocrine Disruptors Can Wreak Havoc on Bodies

There’s room for debate about whether European and American chemical regulations are significantly different in their overall outcomes. For example, the measured effects of polybrominated diphenyl ethers and organophosphates in the E.U. and U.S. from the Lancet study show how regulators on each continent vary in their precautionary approaches to the same chemicals.

Americans are effectively acting as guinea pigs for the chemical industry.

But there’s no debating the fact that endocrine disruptors pose significant health risks. Since the precise nature of those risks are still being studied, Americans are effectively acting as guinea pigs for the chemical industry.

What is known about endocrine disruptors is cause enough for concern. They’ve been linked to cancers, reproductive problems, early puberty, birth defects, kidney and thyroid disease, nervous system dysfunction, and other serious problems.

The prevalence of these chemicals in our bodies underscores their omnipresence. BPA—a chemical used in plastics that can cause cancer, obesity, and heart disease—has been found in 93% of Americans. Atrazine, used on U.S. corn crops and pervasive in drinking water, has been shown to feminize male frogs and is linked to several cancers.

Avoiding these chemicals therefore requires major lifestyle changes, such as eating organic, avoiding plastic food containers, and filtering drinking water.

The Environmental Working Group offers a free download that details twelve of the most prevalent endocrine disruptors and how to avoid them.

5 FAQs About the Calumet Lead Crisis

1. Which parts of East Chicago have been affected by the Calumet lead crisis? How broad is the contaminated area?

The contamination site encompasses the Calumet neighborhood of East Chicago. If you live outside of that neighborhood—in Whiting, for example—we haven’t been made aware of any environmental issues as yet.

However, there are 39 other areas in Indiana that have been tainted by hazardous waste and therefore designated “Superfund” sites by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). You can find a list of these locations here.

2. What should I do if I live in Calumet?

If you live in the West Calumet Housing Complex, you must relocate by November 30, 2016. The complex and Carrie Gosch Elementary School comprise Zone 1 of the EPA’s cleanup efforts.

If you live in another part of Calumet, the EPA is now testing the soil and determining the best course of action. The Times of Northwest Indiana reports: “EPA has started to release soil sampling results to residents in zone 3, the eastern part of the neighborhood. EPA will begin cleanup at the most contaminated properties this fall, and work is expected to continue next spring.”

You should also receive free blood testing at the East Chicago Health Department or at Carrie Gosch to determine the lead levels in your blood and your children’s. According to Jennifer O’Malley, director of public affairs for the Indiana State Department of Health, anything above 5 micrograms per deciliter (5 μg/dL) is considered elevated.

Calumet Toxic Soil Infographic

(Infographic sources listed at bottom of page.)

3. Who is most vulnerable to lead poisoning?

“Children age six and under and pregnant women are the most vulnerable populations because of the way the brain develops,” Ms. O’Malley tells the Public News Service. “The brain actually starts developing in the womb, so we are most concerned about those younger children and pregnant women.”

4. How can I reduce my children’s exposure to lead?

Dr. Richard Troast, PhD—founder of Troast Environmental Consulting—offers the following advice for curbing the risk of lead poisoning:

Shortening the period of exposure may reduce the toxic effects. This can be accomplished by removing lead sources within the household. Lead paint can be removed, lead dust removed through intensive cleaning, and lead in soil through the use of ground cover to minimize the release of the dirt and lead into the home. Parents can move into lead-free residences. Generally, homes built after the ban of lead based paints [in 1978] will be safer than homes built prior. However, when in doubt, there are commercial certified contractors available to test the home.

Additionally, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) advises the following:

  • Don’t let children play in dirt or mulch
  • Wash children’s toys regularly
  • Wash children’s hands after they play outside
  • Remove shoes before entering homes
  • In Superfund sites like West Calumet Housing Complex, do not disturb mulch or dig/garden in yards

5. What can I do if a family member has an elevated level of lead in his or her blood?

See Question #4 for ways to reduce present and future lead exposure.

The Mayo Clinic states, “A level of 5 mcg/dL or higher indicates your child may have unsafe levels of lead in their blood and should have their blood tested periodically. If levels become too high—generally 45 mcg/dL or higher—your child should be treated.”

Cases in which the lead level is 45 μg/dL or higher may require intravenous drug treatment like ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA).

ClassAction will continue to investigate this crisis and keep you informed as news breaks. If you have been personally affected by the Calumet soil crisis, please feel free to share your story in the Comments section below this article.

Infographic sources/further reading:

Northwest Indiana Times: “Timeline: History of the USS Lead Superfund Site in E.C.”
Chicago Tribune: “East Chicago residents fleeing lead contamination find few housing options”
NPR: “East Chicago Residents Search for Answers About Their Health”
Northwest Indiana Times: “EPA to begin cleanup in East Chicago”

Toxic Soil in East Chicago Complex Has Shocking Lead Levels

Residents of the West Calumet Housing Complex in East Chicago, Indiana were advised in late July that due to dangerously high levels of lead and arsenic in the soil the complex would be demolished and they’d have to find new homes.

The extent of soil contamination is much higher than West Calumet residents—more than half of whom are children—were previously led to believe they were. The top six inches of soil in West Calumet yards have lead levels up to 30 times higher than the level considered safe for children, in addition to dangerous levels of arsenic. Initial testing shows that hundreds of children have excessive lead levels.

ClassAction.com is investigating the toxic soil scandal in West Calumet and determining how we can best help residents there. Stay in the know and protect your family by contacting us.

Protect Your Family

Former Industrial Site Poisoned Ground

West Calumet sits atop the U.S. Smelter and Lead Refinery, Inc. Superfund site. From 1906 to 1985 a copper smelter, lead refinery, and lead smelter operated on the site. EPA has identified Anaconda/Atlantic Richfield, DuPont, and USS Lead as the sources of contamination.

EPA sought Superfund status for the site in 2008 and began initial soil testing that revealed some “hot spots,” EPA acting regional administrator for the Great Lakes region told the New York Times. Kaplan says EPA removed soil from these hot spots and did so again in 2011.

“Preliminary results reveal that hundreds of children suffer from excessive levels of lead in their blood.”

In 2012 EPA had a plan in place to remove contaminated soil from 57% (723 out of 1271) of West Calumet properties. In 2014 EPA and the state of Indiana entered into a site cleanup agreement with Atlantic Richfield and DuPont.

But it wasn’t until May, when EPA gave lead and arsenic data to East Chicago city officials as part of the soil removal plan, that West Calumet residents learned just how toxic their soil is.

East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland, who upon obtaining the lead and arsenic data called for demolishing the housing complex rather than following the soil removal plan, accused EPA of withholding data about the levels of lead and arsenic contamination from the city.

“Despite the EPA’s knowledge for more than a decade of the unprecedented high levels of lead contamination in the soils, the EPA neither performed not requested testing of residents’ blood (lead) levels,” Copeland wrote in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Instead, when the city became aware of the extremely high levels of lead in the soil on May 24, 2016, it immediately commenced testing. Preliminary results reveal that hundreds of children suffer from excessive levels of lead in their blood.”

Lead poisoning is of particular concern to children. West Calumet parents have described a range of symptoms in their children consistent with lead poisoning, including headaches, stomachaches, and nausea. Even low levels of lead exposure in children can irreversibly harm their developing brains and nervous systems.

ClassAction.com Looking into Legal Remedies

There are currently more questions than answers about West Calumet toxic soil. Residents wonder whether they’ll be able to afford new, safe housing and how they’ll help their poisoned children.

Ultimately, liability for the toxic West Calumet soil and resulting health issues lies with the companies that operated there for most of the 20th century.

Lawyers for ClassAction.com are investigating what legal remedies may be available for residents harmed by West Calumet toxic soil.

To stay informed about breaking developments in this case, including what legal action might be possible, keep checking the News section here at ClassAction.com.