Articles Posted in Toxic Chemicals

roundup on shelfThere are countless chemicals with which we come into contact in our daily lives. While some of these are open and obvious, like hand soap, others are more difficult to identify. California’s Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, prevents businesses from exposing consumers to chemicals that are “known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity” through drinking water. They are also prohibited from exposing consumers to these chemicals without providing warnings on the product that meet a “clear and reasonable” standard.

Recently, the agency tasked with enforcing Prop 65, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), announced that it intended to list glyphosate as a chemical subject to Prop 65’s warnings. Glyphosate is sold under the brand name Roundup for household use and used as a common pesticide in agriculture.

The agency based its decision on a report produced by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in March 2015. The report concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” IARC uses this designation for chemicals when there is inadequate or limited research demonstrating that the product causes cancer in humans, but there is enough evidence to show that the chemical causes cancer in animals.

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toxic chemical signIn a recently filed lawsuit, Williams v. Deterex Corporation, the plaintiff alleges that her husband lost his life as a result of a company’s failure to appropriately label a load of hydrogen sulfide as hazardous. On April 26, 2016, the decedent was transporting a load of materials for the defendant chemical company to another location. After he offloaded the cargo, the decedent commenced the standard procedure used to wash out the truck’s tank. He was wearing protective gear at this time. While the tank wash was occurring, the decedent was exposed to fumes from the hazardous chemical that remained in the tank. On the following day, the decedent passed away.

Several state and federal regulations govern the safe handling of waste and hazardous waste materials. One rule, for example, requires trucks transporting such materials to carry a Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest. The load that the decedent transported on April 26 was accompanied by a manifest. It stated, however, that the load was “non-hazardous, non D.O.T. regulated material” and identified the contents as “sulfate water/solids.” Also attached to the manifest was a laboratory analysis that allegedly verified the waste profile of the load. The analysis was conducted by U.S. Ecology on February 1, 2016, and it expired on March 10, 2016.

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toxic chemical bottlesThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is planning a ban on a chemical that is commonly used in dry cleaning services, due to its serious impact on liver health and neurological function. The chemical, trichloroethylene (TCE), has been associated with serious risks to consumers and workers. A 2014 assessment concluded that the chemical can lead to a wide array of health effects, including cancer, the development of neurotoxicological effects, and liver toxicity.

TCE is a chemical that is mostly used as a solvent. It has a pleasant, sweet smell, although it can be inhaled without any odor associated with it. The vapors can also be absorbed through skin contact. In most cases, TCE is used in commercial or manufacturing facilities. It is sold through industrial supply channels as a degreaser or refrigerant chemical.

The EPA is proposing to prohibit the manufacture of the chemical, as well as its use in processing plants and distribution centers that use TCE in aerosol degreasing applications or spot use cleaning applications in dry cleaning facilities. The federal agency is also proposing a requirement that would force manufacturers, processors, and distribution centers to provide notice to retailers and other businesses and individuals in their supply chains of the agency’s new prohibitions. Because of its highly hazardous nature, the EPA plans to evaluate the potential health consequences associated with TCE in its other uses and applications.

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yellow triangle warning

After a year of consideration, California’s Office of Health Hazard Assessment (OHHA) has issued a final regulation for its “Safe Harbor” warning provision regarding Proposition 65. This new provision is designed to give consumers additional information regarding the contents of the products sold in California, particularly when it comes to potentially dangerous chemicals. The new regulation will go into effect on August 30, 2018, giving companies time to comply.

Between now and the date that the new provision takes effect, manufacturers can continue to print labels with existing warning language, as authorized by Proposition 65. This language will be deemed compliant even if the product is sold after the August 30, 2018 date, as long as the product was manufactured before then.

As another option, manufacturers can use the new warning label language immediately and avoid any issues with non-compliance following August 30, 2018. Also, the regulation states that any court order or final judgment approving specific language for a warning label will still be subject to that court order or judgment in lieu of the new label requirement.

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factory polluting airA new lawsuit brought by a group of Oregon residents claims that Precision Castparts has released heavy metals and toxic chemicals into public areas. The class action complaint claims that the residents have been exposed to “hot spots” of these carcinogenic materials. The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit alleges that the company, which makes aircraft parts and engine parts, has emitted substances like arsenic and nickel, thereby contaminating businesses, homes, and public areas. If an individual is exposed to dangerous levels of arsenic and nickel, a number of devastating health conditions may result, including lung damage, nerve damage, and birth defects.

The complaint states that roughly 5,000 homes within the area have been exposed to toxic chemicals and that they will continue to suffer this exposure even if the company ceases its allegedly tortious activity. The named plaintiffs consist of four individuals who each live within one mile of the defendant’s business location. They allege that they have been deprived of the use and enjoyment of the area surrounding their homes as a result of the airborne contamination and that they have incurred damages as a result of having to purchase air filtration systems.

In a 2013 study performed by the University of Massachusetts, the company was deemed the worst industrial air polluter in the United States. Both the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Forest Service have issued studies that name the defendant as one of the biggest polluters in Portland, stating that the company was responsible for much of the contamination in the citywide area. To reach this conclusion, the agencies performed tests on samples of moss from trees within the area. Since moss absorbs ambient pollutants from the surrounding air, it is a good indicator of the amount of toxic chemicals in the air.

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toxic chemical barrelsOne of the most horrific events that can happen to a community is chemical dumping or other toxic spills. Once a dangerous chemical is released into the environment, it can have irreversible and devastating impacts that can lead to serious health consequences or even death. Recently, a plaintiff from West Virginia was awarded $5.1 million in a lawsuit alleging that major international chemical maker DuPont acted recklessly when it dumped toxic waste into waterways in the state. The plaintiff, a 56-year-old man, suffered testicular cancer as a result of coming into contact with C-8, a chemical agent that DuPont uses in manufacturing Teflon.

Filed in October 2013, the lawsuit alleges that DuPont released waste material containing C-8 from its Washington Works Plant located in Wood County “directly into the air, the Ohio River, and unlined non-hazardous waste landfills in the vicinity of the plant and local drinking wells.” The lawsuit also claims that DuPont knew the substances would contaminate the surface waters and the subterranean waters.

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old apartment buildingA recent case being brought by a mother in Texas highlights the many not-so-obvious ways that contamination can result in serious injuries and even death. According to her complaint, the woman’s son died tragically as a result of her apartment complex’s failure to address contamination leaking from a cesspool. The mother was 22 weeks pregnant when she became so ill that her physicians were required to prematurely induce labor in an attempt to save her baby’s life.

The doctors concluded that the plaintiff had a severe E. coli infection, resulting from water in the cesspool leaching into various places on the property. As a result of her infection, her unborn baby developed a bacterial infection called chorioamnionitis. This infection, which targets the uterus, is commonly derived from E. coli. The baby was unable to survive and died roughly two hours after the induced delivery.

The mother and her husband lived at the apartment complex starting in December 2013. The family first noticed that they were experiencing health issues around June 2015, including urinary tract infections, diarrhea, and vomiting. Other residents at the apartment complexes reported experiencing similar health maladies. The plaintiff first learned that she was with child in November 2015 and became seriously ill in February 2016. During that same month, a company was hired to work on the apartment complex. They reported that a large cesspool had been discovered underneath the building and that it had contaminated the drinking water for the building. They also submitted a proposal to fix the problem, but the apartment complex has done nothing to fix the cesspool. The apartment complex operator denies having received a report identifying E. coli on the premises and denies that the plaintiffs ever reported their illnesses.

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Prop 65 signCalifornia’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has released a new set of revisions to its proposed overhaul of the state’s Prop 65 product labeling law. This effort is the first significant modification to the label, which must be appended to certain products and product shelf spaces, in several decades. The new warning label has been under development since 2013.

According to Prop 65, manufacturers must label products that contain a significant level of toxic chemicals deemed to pose health hazards to consumers, particularly cancer. Similarly, retailers must include a notice on shelving next to these products, further alerting consumers about the potential risks. As a result, manufacturers and product sellers doing business in California must conduct thorough tests and investigations into the chemicals that are present in their products.

OEHHA administers Prop 65 in California and maintains a list of the toxic chemicals that will require a manufacturer to include a warning. The list also provides the minimum levels at which a label will be required. In some cases, a trace amount of a toxic chemical present in a product will not require a label. There are a wide variety of chemicals on the list, including both naturally occurring and synthetic ingredients.

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14874003257_3a7b8d66fb_bThe World Health Organization (WHO) published a final report in March 2015 indicating that the commonly used herbicide glyphosate, packaged and marketed under the retail label Roundup, is a probable human carcinogen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which performed the assessment, based its conclusion on opinions from 17 different experts hailing from 11 countries. The group met in Lyon, France to discuss the chemical’s potential dangers, in addition to five other organophosphate-based pesticides.

In its report, IARC also noted that the product garnered roughly $6 billion in annual sales. The chemical was first developed and marketed by major agricultural chemical maker Monsanto in the 1970s.

Today, roughly 80 percent of all genetically modified crops are engineered to be resistant to glyphosate, allowing producers to spray a hearty dose of the herbicide on the crops to kill other weeds that may affect crop health and yields. Some sources suggest that between 1996 and 2011, the planting of Roundup Ready crops increased, correlating to the use of roughly 527 million pounds of herbicides in the U.S. The product is also commonly used in private lawn maintenance and home gardening.

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vegetables-61896_960_720The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has issued a new 2016 Shopping Guide, indicating that strawberries are now the most heavily contaminated item in the produce section. According to the report, 40 percent of all strawberries contained residues from at least 10 hazardous pesticides. Some of the compounds found on the strawberries included known carcinogens, which have been directly linked to developmental and reproductive harm, hormone disruption, and cognitive issues, reports the EWG.

Strawberries are a seasonal crop, but the use of chemicals and pesticides has allowed growers to produce strawberries year-round. In 2014, over 2.3 billion pounds of strawberries were harvested in California, which is the country’s biggest producer of strawberries.

Other items on the EWG’s list of most contaminated fruits and vegetables include apples, nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, and bell peppers.

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