Birmingham Toxic Exposure Attorney
A “toxic tort” results from exposure to a toxin or some harmful substance. These toxic substances can cause damage to a person or to property as they are released into the air, ground, or water. Exposure to these toxic substances is frequently linked to lung cancer, leukemia, brain and other organ damage, and birth defects.
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The following chemicals are often associated with toxic tort litigation:
Benzene is found in the air from emissions from burning coal and oil, gasoline service stations, and motor vehicle exhaust. Short-term inhalation exposure to large amounts of benzene may cause drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, as well as eye, skin, and respiratory tract irritation. At high levels, unconsciousness may occur. Long-term (chronic) inhalation exposure has caused various disorders in the blood, including reduced numbers of red blood cells and aplastic anemia, in occupational settings. Reproductive effects have been reported for women exposed high inhalation levels, and adverse effects on the developing fetus have been observed in animal tests. Increased incidences of leukemia have been observed in humans exposed to benzene on their jobs.
Coke Oven Emissions
Coke oven emissions are complex mixtures of coal and coke particles, various vapors, gases, and tars that include a number of substances. Long-term exposure to coke oven emissions in humans results in conjunctivitis, severe dermatitis, and lesions of the respiratory system and digestive system. Cancer is the major concern from exposure to coke oven emissions, particularly cancer of the lung, trachea, bronchus, kidney, and prostate, among other sites.
Creosote is the name used to refer to wood creosote, coal tar creosote, coal tar, coal tar pitch, and coal tar pitch volatiles. These products are mixtures of many chemicals created by high-temperature treatment of beech and other woods, coal, or from the resin of the creosote bush. Creosote is commonly found in wood treatment, coke-producing or asphalt facilities, homes built with creosote-treated wood, chimneys, and in water contaminated by creosote run-off. Breathing vapors of the creosotes, coal tar, coal tar pitch, or coal tar pitch volatiles can cause irritation of the respiratory tract. Long-term exposure, especially direct contact with the skin during wood treatment or manufacture of coal tar creosote-treated products, has resulted in skin cancer and cancer of the scrotum.
Asbestos is a scarring of the lung tissue. Many workers were exposed to asbestos fibers and asbestos-containing materials during the 1940s to 1980s, particularly at metal refining plants, mines, shipyards, construction sites, and automobile manufacturing facilities. Asbestos is also found in insulation, roofing materials, and other construction materials. At the time of asbestos exposure, asbestos particles attach to the lungs creating scarred lung tissue. This scarring impairs the elasticity of the lung and hampers its ability to exchange gases. This leads to inadequate oxygen intake to the blood. Asbestosis restricts breathing leading to decreased lung volume and increased resistance in the airways. It is a slowly progressing disease that does not manifest itself until 15 to 30 years later.
Hazardous / Toxic Waste
Improper disposal of hazardous/ toxic waste created by modern industry can lead to groundwater contamination and exposure to toxic material. There is an increase in the risk of adverse health effects (low birth weight, birth defects, certain types of cancers) reported near individual landfill sites. Hazardous waste includes any of the toxic substances listed on this page.
Dioxin is a general term that describes a group of hundreds of chemicals that are highly persistent in the environment. Dioxin is formed as an unintentional by-product of many industrial processes involving chlorine such as waste incineration, chemical and pesticide manufacturing and pulp and paper bleaching. The US Environmental Protection Agency clearly describes dioxin as a “serious public health threat.” According to an EPA report, not only does there appear to be no “safe” level of exposure to dioxin, but levels of dioxin and dioxin-like chemicals have been found in the general U.S. population that are “at or near levels associated with adverse health effects.” Typically, dioxins are absorbed by the body through food.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a group of manufactured organic chemicals that contain 209 individual chlorinated chemicals (known as congeners). Concentrated PCBs are either oily liquids or solids and are colorless to light yellow in color. They have no known smell or taste. There are no known natural sources of PCBs. Some commercial PCB mixtures are known in the United States by their industrial trade name, Aroclor. PCBs don’t burn easily and are a good insulating material. They have been used widely as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors, and other electrical equipment. The manufacture of PCBs stopped in the United States in 1977 because of evidence that they build up in the environment and cause harmful health effects.
Products containing PCBs are old fluorescent lighting fixtures, electrical appliances containing PCB capacitors, old microscope oil, and hydraulic fluids. Because they do not break down easily, PCBs are now found widely distributed in our environment. PCBs have been demonstrated to cause a variety of adverse health effects, including effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, endocrine system, and other health effects. Women exposed to PCB’s while pregnant often give birth prematurely to underweight babies who have developmental and cognitive disabilities.
Lead exposure is one of the most common preventable poisonings of children. Data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows that 6% of all children ages 1-2 years and 11% of black (non-Hispanic) children ages 1-5 years have blood lead levels in the toxic range. Children with developing bodies are especially vulnerable because their rapidly developing nervous systems are particularly sensitive to the effects of lead, however, lead exposure can affect anyone. Common sources include lead paint and lead contained in water and soil. Housing built before 1960 has the greatest risks of containing lead-based paint.
Lead can cause several unwanted effects, such as disruption of the biosynthesis of hemoglobin and anemia; a rise in blood pressure; kidney damage; miscarriages and subtle abortions; disruption of nervous systems; brain injury; declined fertility of men through sperm damage; diminished learning abilities of children; and behavioral disruptions of children, such as aggression, impulsive behavior and hyperactivity. Lead can enter a fetus through the placenta of the mother. Because of this, it can cause serious damage to the nervous system and the brains of unborn children.
Repeated exposure to breathing mercury metal vapor affects the human brain, spinal cord, eyes, and kidneys. It may cause mood changes; inability to concentrate; memory loss; a fine shaking, tingling, or loss of feeling of the hand, tongue, or eyelid; discoloration of the cornea and lens of the eye; disturbances of vision; and kidney disease. Swallowing mercury compounds can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Severe kidney damage can occur. Some mercury compounds can cause irritation of the skin and eyes on contact. If a pregnant woman eats large amounts of fish contaminated with methylmercury, her unborn child may develop damage to vision, hearing, taste, smell, memory, and mental ability.
Infants and children are also at high risk from methylmercury-contaminated fish and possibly breast milk. Very high exposure to breathing mercury metal vapor in the air can poison quickly. Symptoms begin with a cough, chest pain, trouble breathing, and upset stomach. Chemical pneumonia, which can be fatal, can then develop. Children are more susceptible than adults to mercury poisoning. They can get “pink disease” with a rash over the body, chills, swelling and irritation of hands, feet, cheeks, and nose, light sensitivity, trouble sleeping, and heavy sweating. Mercury is released into the environment by burning coal, erupting volcanoes, and is also found in items such as paint, caulk, and fish.
MTBE (Methyl tert-butyl ether)
This compound has been added to unleaded gasoline since the 1980s to achieve better efficiency. Starting in 1992 in cooperation with the U.S. EPA, petroleum companies started adding MTBE to gasoline to improve combustion and decrease harmful carbon monoxide emissions from motor vehicles, especially in the winter months. Exposure to MTBE from gasoline can occur when living near bulk gasoline loading and unloading facilities or near facilities that can leak gasoline from the underground storage containers. The most common form of exposure is the inhalation of MTBE-contaminated air. However, it is also absorbed through the contact with the skin. Contamination of the groundwater near storage facilities can also result in exposure from the tap water. Exposure to MTBE can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, memory loss, and may cause kidney cancer.
Humans can be exposed to pesticides in the home or at work. Gardeners and farmers who frequently use pesticides are most at risk. Pesticides are found on food, insecticides, fertilizer, and water. However, in many cases the amount of pesticide people are likely to be exposed to is too small to pose a risk. Repeated exposure to high level of pesticides is associated with neurological disorders, cancer, attention deficit disorder, slow development of children, reproductive system damage, hyperactivity, and birth defects.
Vinyl chloride is used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC is used to make a variety of plastic products, including pipes, wire and cable coatings, and packaging materials. Contact with vinyl chloride can have serious health consequences. Short-term exposure to moderate levels of vinyl chloride in the air can result in a headache, vertigo, loss of consciousness, and fatigue. Nervous system damage is also possible. Breathing high levels of vinyl chloride can cause you to feel dizzy or sleepy. Exposure to an excessive amount of vinyl chloride can be deadly. Physical contact with vinyl chloride can cause blistering, irritation, and loss of sensation in the skin. As a toxic chemical, vinyl chloride can also cause long-lasting and chronic conditions.
In addition to being a known carcinogen (a cancer-causing agent), vinyl chloride has been found to cause a number of other conditions, including Raynaud’s syndrome, scleroderma, angiosarcoma, and acro-osteolysis. Raynaud’s syndrome compromises the blood flow to the fingers and toes. The reduced circulation can cause pain, numbness, and impaired function, especially in cold temperatures. Scleroderma is a condition in which the skin, most frequently on the hands, hardens and thickens. Acroosteolysis is a condition in which the bones (especially in the fingers) deteriorate. Angiosarcoma of the liver, a rare form of liver cancer, begins with the formation of a cancerous tumor in the blood vessels of the liver. In addition, vinyl chloride represents the only established cause of cancerous brain tumors.
Researchers have also linked leukemia, a cancer that affects the blood and blood-forming organs, to vinyl chloride exposure. Other cancers linked to vinyl chloride include lung cancer, and stomach or intestinal cancer. In addition, the nervous, circulatory and reproductive systems can suffer harm as a result of exposure to vinyl chloride. In general, those exposed to high levels of vinyl chloride or those exposed over a long period of time are at the highest risk for these and other health effects.
The chemical compound trichloroethylene is a chlorinated hydrocarbon commonly used as an industrial solvent. Workers in degreasing operations have the highest risk of exposure to TCE. People who live near factories that use TCE may be exposed to low TCE levels in the air. When inhaled, trichloroethylene depresses the central nervous system. Its symptoms are similar to those of alcohol intoxication, beginning with a headache, dizziness, and confusion and progressing with increasing exposure to unconsciousness and death. Caution should be exercised anywhere a high concentration of trichloroethylene vapors may be present, because it quickly desensitizes the nose to its scent, and it is possible to unknowingly inhale harmful or even lethal amounts of the vapor — that is, it has poor warning properties. Current medical studies show that TCE may cause
You can and should be compensated for injuries caused by toxic substances. If you have been a victim of toxic exposure, you can file an environmental toxic tort personal injury and property damage lawsuit. If the court finds that your injury is directly linked to exposure to a toxic substance, you could be awarded compensation to cover your medical costs, emotional trauma expenses, and property damage. Furthermore, chances are, you are not the only victim of exposure, as it is extremely rare for a toxic material to affect just one person. Often, toxic tort cases are brought forth as mass tort lawsuits because of the large number of plaintiffs. For your convenience, specific examples of well-known toxic tort cases witnessed in recent generations are listed below:
- Agent Orange: Used in massive quantities in Viet Nam as a defoliant, causing injury to countless soldiers and civilians.
- Toxic Waste Disposal Litigation: Examples include the Love Canal case in Niagara Falls, New York, the Times Beach case in Missouri and the W.R. Grace case in Woburn, Massachusetts (featured in the book and movie, “A Civil Action”).
- Radiation Exposure: Atomic testing during the 1940s has resulted in litigation over cancers caused by atomic fallout. In addition, class action litigation resulted from the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor accident.
The 1984 Union Carbide Disaster in Bhopal India: Litigation resulted from the massive leakage of a cloud of methyl isocyanate, estimated to have caused 2,000 immediate deaths, 8,000 subsequent deaths, and 300,000 injuries.