Manufacturers, landlords, and government authorities have all been sued for unnecessarily exposing the community to dangerous toxins.
Humans are exposed to a diverse range of chemicals and toxins every day, but some are more dangerous to our health than others. Even exposure to low doses of some substances may cause life-threatening diseases. Manufacturers, retailers, landlords, employers, schools, and government authorities all have a duty to ensure that they don’t unnecessarily expose the community to dangerous toxins.
Some of the natural and man-made chemicals that companies rely on to make their products waterproof, fire-resistant, or more cost-effective may threaten human health. All too often, these chemicals leak from manufacturing plants or the products themselves, seeping into our food, drinking water, and the air we breathe. Other times, companies fail to prevent the presence of natural toxins in products or our homes.
If you or your property are exposed to toxic chemicals, the results can be devastating. Physical injuries, property damage, and injuries to business interests can occur. To manage the harm already caused and prevent further contamination, it is critical that you retain the services of an experienced environmental litigation attorney.
Common Sources of Toxic Chemical Exposure
Here are some of the most common—and dangerous—sources of toxic chemical exposure today.
Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) and Perfluorooctanoic acids (PFOAs)
What it is: PFCs are man-made chemicals that contain only carbon and fluorine. PFOAs (or C8), which fall under the PFC family, are commonly used for industrial and commercial products.
Found in: These chemicals are used in everything from waterproof and stain-resistant materials, to teflon cookware and firefighting foams.
Health side effects: According to preliminary health risk-assessment studies, these chemicals are “likely carcinogenic.” What makes them particularly dangerous to human health and the environment is that they bioaccumulate, so if they do breakdown at all, they do so slowly. This means that even though PFCs and PFOAs are rarely used today, we are still exposed to chemicals from years past.
PFOAs and PFCs are linked to an increased risk of testicular and kidney cancers, disorders such as thyroid disease, high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, and pregnancy-induced hypertension, as well as other conditions.
Stuart, Florida sued fire suppression product manufacturers for allegedly contaminating the city’s drinking water wells.
In October 2018, our attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of the city of Stuart, Florida against the following fire suppression product manufacturers: 3M, Tyco Fire Products, Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, Chemguard, and National Foam. The Stuart Fire Rescue allegedly used PFOS- and PFOA-based Aqueous Film Forming Foam before the chemicals were pulled from the market. The lawsuit alleges that the PFOSs and PFOAs from the foam contaminated the city’s groundwater, resulting in contamination of the city’s drinking water wells.
In 2017, DuPont and Chemours settled thousands of similar lawsuits over their use of PFOAs in Teflon. Altogether, they agreed to pay $671 million. Lawsuits alleged that PFOAs leaked from their West Virginia plant into local drinking water. (If you believe your water was contaminated with PFOS or PFOAs, our attorneys want to hear from you.)
What it is: HaloSan (or BCDMH) are tablets containing bromine and chlorine which are used to treat water wells that are clogged and /or producing odors or discolored water.
Found in: The chemical may be found in drinking water. It was recently discovered that state authorities treated Denmark, South Carolina’s drinking water wells with HaloSan for a decade, despite the fact that the chemical was never approved by the EPA for this purpose.
Health side effects: In a 2007 risk assessment report, the EPA identified HaloSan as a significant skin and eye irritant that may cause rash, itching, blisters, hives, and eye pain and swelling.
Lawsuits: Residents in Denmark, South Carolina are considering litigation to ensure their water is cleaned up and doesn’t become contaminated again. (If you are a resident of Denmark, or if you believe your water may be contaminated with HaloSan, our attorneys want to hear from you.)
What it is: A man-made fluorochemical, manufactured by Chemours (a spin-off company of DuPont), to replace C8 (or PFOA)—a highly toxic chemical. GenX is made up of HFPO dimer acid.
Found in: Cleaning products, firefighting foams, Teflon, paint, outdoor fabrics, and food packaging.
Health side effects: GenX is toxic and carcinogenic. However, it’s one of hundreds of dangerous chemicals that isn’t tested in drinking water.
Lawsuits: Chemours and DuPont were sued after it was discovered the companies had been dumping GenX chemicals manufactured in their Fayetteville, North Carolina factory into the nearby Cape Fear River since 1980. The river supplies drinking water to the Wilmington, North Carolina area.
What it is: A natural colorless, odorless gas consisting of carbon and hydrogen.
Found in: Natural gas pipelines used to heat homes. It’s a greenhouse gas that is a byproduct of animal and landfill waste, and coal, oil, and natural gas extraction.
Health side effects: While you can’t smell methane in its natural form, you can smell the chemical odor that is added by gas companies to alert you of a gas leak. Methane exposure may result in headaches, nausea, dizziness, loss of consciousness, and even asphyxiation and death in severe cases. A methane gas leak may also cause explosions and fires, as the gas is extremely flammable. These explosions may result in severe injuries, burns, and sometimes death.
Lawsuits: Our attorneys filed a class action lawsuit against Columbia Gas for the Merrimack Valley gas explosion that burned as many as 80 homes and businesses. The lawsuit alleges that Columbia Gas should have known that the design, maintenance, and operation of its natural gas pipes could cause an explosion.
What it is: Naturally-occuring soft, heavy metal.
Found in: Paint (particularly in older homes), drinking water, and some consumer products (like toys and jewelry)
Health side effects: Long-term exposure can result in lead poisoning. Complications from lead poisoning can be serious, like lowered IQ and stunted growth—especially for children who are still developing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 500,000 children under the age of 6 are still exposed to dangerous levels of lead.
Lawsuits: Lead exposure lawsuits can be filed against landlords, public housing authorities, government authorities, and school districts.
The Flint water crisis sparked one of the largest lead disasters in recent history. In 2014, Flint, Michigan’s water supply was switched from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River. Shortly after, the city’s water supply became contaminated with lead from the lead-based pipes. In 2016, a state of emergency was declared.
The level of lead has since returned to normal levels, but the city’s lead pipes are still being replaced. The state of Michigan agreed to an $87 million settlement which would cover the costs of replacing the lead pipes.
There are multiple lawsuits still pending in state and federal courts that allege that government officials were aware of and ignored the health risk the public faced when they switched Flint’s water supply. Six state workers have been criminally charged for contributing to the crisis.
What it is: A naturally occurring metal found in trace amounts in soil and rocks.
Found in: Batteries, metal coatings, and plastic. Some plants easily absorb cadmium, including tobacco. Because of this, smokers often have higher levels of cadmium in their bodies than non-smokers.
Health side effects: Cadmium is toxic and a carcinogen. Long-term exposure may cause fertility problems, learning problems, kidney problems, kidney failure, bone softening, or lung, prostate or kidney cancers.
Major U.S. chocolate retailers, like Hershey and Nestlé, were sued over allegedly selling chocolate that contained traces of cadmium. In 2018, the companies settled with consumer advocacy group As You Sow, by agreeing to conduct a joint study to investigate the main sources of lead and cadmium.
Soylent also faces a lawsuit which alleges that the meal replacement contains cadmium and lead.
What it is: A mineral known for its fibrous structure and heat- and chemical-resistant properties.
Found in: Insulation, drywall, flooring, plaster, gaskets, automobile brake pads and lining, fireproof clothing, even some imported products like crayons
Health side effects: Mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that primarily affects the lungs.
Lawsuits: Asbestos is the longest mass tort in history. Mesothelioma sufferers and their families have recovered billions of dollars against asbestos manufacturers and companies that used the dangerous mineral, even after knowing of its health risks.
In 2018, the family of Pietro Macaluso—a man who died from mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos in buildings he demolished—obtained a $60 million verdict against companies A.O. Smith Corp., Burnham Commercial, and Peerless. These companies allegedly installed or manufactured the asbestos that Macaluso was exposed to.
What it is: Type of fungus that grows on dead organic matter or areas with condensation and humidity.
Found in: Homes and other buildings, commonly in areas with excessive moisture (like bathrooms, floors and walls where flooding and leaking has occurred)
Health side effects: Mold exposure can aggravate health conditions like asthma and allergies. Common allergic responses include coughing, wheezing, respiratory problems, and skin, throat, and eye irritation.
Toxic mold (or stachybotrys chartarum) may cause serious complications like neurological problems and death.
Lawsuits: Toxic mold lawsuits are commonly filed against landlords. Most states have laws that require that landlords prevent and remove mold to some degree.
In June 2018, New York City reached a $2 billion settlement with the federal government over the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) health violations. The money will be used to improve the NYCHA. The lawsuit unearthed 300 incidents of mold that were in excess of 100 square feet. The NYCHA—which is responsible for housing more than 500,000 people—also admitted to submitting untrue representations to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) about the presence of lead paint in NYCHA units.
Gasoline and other fuels
What it is: Fuel made from crude oil and additives like ethanol and benzene.
Found in: Groundwater contamination is common, particularly near gas stations, oil fields, and refineries. Oil spills and leaks that occur when fuel is being transported are another way humans are exposed to these toxic chemicals.
Health side effects: Those who clean up oil spills and work in refineries are particularly susceptible to dangerous health side effects. Complications include: respiratory problems, neurological problems, increased cancer risk, and skin and eye problems. The National Institute for Safety & Health (NIOSH) has identified gasoline as a carcinogen.
Lawsuits: After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill—one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history— British Petroleum established a $20 billion fund towards government response efforts, environmental cleanup and rehabilitation, and individual damages. Individual damages included lost income, property damage, and health injuries.
Above-ground and underground storage tanks
What it is: Containers used by oil refineries, gas stations, and other companies to store chemicals in an accessible location. Inadequate maintenance may cause tank failure, which can result in soil or groundwater contamination.
Found in: These containers are often used by oil refineries, gas stations, dry cleaners.
Health side effects: Health consequences vary, depending on the degree of exposure and the chemical that leaks from the storage tank. The long-term effects of oral exposure to gasoline additives are still relatively unknown. However, MTBE is associated with an increased risk of cancer in laboratory animals, and ethanol may damage the central nervous system and liver.
In 2017, the state of Maryland filed a lawsuit against 50 petroleum companies over groundwater contamination. The state discovered that underground storage tanks leaked methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), a fuel additive, polluting the state’s groundwater.
What it is: A natural mineral found in soil, water, and air.
Found in: Arsenic can contaminate groundwater and food. These sources are the most harmful to human health.
Health side effects: Arsenic exposure can cause cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. Early exposure can also affect cognitive development.
A lawsuit was filed in 2015 against 28 wine companies, including Trader Joe’s, Korbel, and Cupcake, for producing and selling wine with levels of inorganic arsenic in excess of the EPA’s standard 10 parts per billion.
In July 2018, Crystal Geyser was sued for illegally disposing arsenic they had filtered out of their drinking water. If found guilty, the company could face up to $8 million in fines for illegally transporting and disposing arsenic into a pond near Olancha, California.
What it is: Industrial solvents are used to dissolve or dilute other substances. They include acetone, methanol, 1.1.1. Trichloroethane, 1,2,3-trichloropropane (TCP), benzene, and hexane.
Found in: Plastic, textiles, paint, paint removers, pesticides, cleaning products, toiletries, and more.
Health side effects:
Short-term effects may include skin and eye irritation, headaches, dizziness, and nausea.
Long-term exposure to solvents can have lifelong health consequences. A recent study conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that solvents used in paint and glue may cause permanent cognitive damage, including memory problems and cognitive delays. Other long-term effects may include damage to the central nervous system, kidneys, or liver. Solvents like benzene may even cause cancer.
In 2016, the city of Clovis, California obtained a $22 million verdict against Shell Oil for contaminating the city’s drinking water wells with the industrial solvent 1,2,3-trichloropropane, or TCP. The solvent is recognized by the state of California as a chemical that causes cancer.
Were You Exposed to a Toxic Chemical?
Our firm has prosecuted several major cases involving toxic chemicals, most notably the BP oil disaster.
If you suspect that you or a loved one were injured or suffered property damage or financial loss as a result of exposure to a toxic chemical, you may be eligible for a lawsuit. Lawsuits may be filed against the chemical manufacturer, companies that use toxic chemicals in their products, retailers who sell the products, and / or employers that expose workers to harmful substances with insufficient safety gear.
Our attorneys represent individuals and businesses throughout the United States who were injured by toxic chemical exposure. Our firm has prosecuted several major cases involving personal injury and property damage resulting from toxic chemicals, most notably the BP oil disaster. We have successfully obtained landmark decisions in environmental litigation cases, and have the resources to take on any company, big or small.
Simply fill out our case review form for a free, no-obligation legal review.