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The Effects of Environmental and Toxic Exposure

Everything that surrounds us, including the food we consume, the water we use and drink, and the air we breathe, is part of our environment. Our interactions with the environment are complex and occasionally risky. Environmental health laws and rules are implemented to manage and safeguard our environment.

The laws governing a company's manufacture and usage of toxic materials should expand along with the production and consumption of dangerous chemicals. Workplaces, schools, and communities, as well as the drinking water and food supply, all, have ambient air that contains toxic materials. Chemical exposure has been associated with several well-known public health issues, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and obesity. Workers in industrial and agricultural settings and members of socially marginalized groups are exposed to toxins in disproportionately greater amounts. Additionally, those in susceptible subpopulations, including children, pregnant women, and those with chronic conditions, are more likely to be exposed. More respect for human life and the environment must be demanded from these corporations.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q: What is a toxic tort? 

A: A toxic tort is a legal claim for damages brought about by exposure to a hazardous substance, such as a chemical, medicine, or pesticide.

Q: When should I get in touch with an environmental lawyer?

A: If you feel an individual, corporation, or other organization is in violation of environmental law. An environmental lawyer can evaluate the circumstances and determine whether or not legal action is required. Any class actions that have been filed in connection with the breach may also be known to an attorney.

Q: Do I require legal representation in a class action suit? 

A: Yes, if you are the lead plaintiff, you will require legal representation to begin the class action on your behalf. It will be helpful for you to speak with an attorney if you have been approached about maybe joining a class action lawsuit to make sure it is the best course of action for you. 

Q: Are class action lawsuits considered civil incidents? 

A: Due to the fact that there are two or more parties involved, a class action case is indeed a civil litigation. 

Toxic Torts 

A specific type of personal injury or property damage lawsuit known as a "toxic tort" results from coming into contact with dangerous chemicals, pesticides, poisons, or drugs. The majority of toxic tort cases center on the plaintiff's assertion that they were inadvertently exposed to harmful chemicals while at work or home. However, because industrial workers are more likely than consumers or residents to face long-term exposure to dangerous materials, occupational toxic tort lawsuits are more prevalent than any other tort case.

The following circumstances frequently result in toxic tort claims:

  • Occupational exposure - When industrial workers are exposed to toxins at large doses for a short period of time or at low levels for a long period of time. Examples of this type of toxic tort case are those involving asbestos and benzene exposure at work.
  • Pharmaceutical drugs - Prescription drugs can produce unanticipated side effects. Recent toxic tort lawsuits have focused on the antidepressants Zoloft and Prozac as well as the antacid Zantac.
  • Exposure in the home - When occupants of a residence inhale or absorb toxins present, such as dangerous mold that the seller or landlord neglected to address. 
  • Consumer products - When users of products like pesticides or permanent chemicals accidentally cause sickness or even death.

Environmental and hazardous tort claims are among the most serious and difficult personal injury and property damage cases. Toxic tort actions, which may be daunting and difficult to pursue, frequently involve large organizations. 

Who Can File An Environmental Lawsuit?

In civil court, anybody may bring an environmental lawsuit. There are typically two major sorts of lawsuits that may be filed against a company: class actions and individual lawsuits. 

Class action: After a person claims injury from an environmental toxin like asbestos, the majority of environmental lawsuits are brought as class actions because there might be other parties that have a similar issue. For instance, if you live in an apartment building that contains asbestos and suffers harm, it's likely that other occupants will seek to join your case if they also experience harm.

Individuals: Anyone who suffers extreme suffering or property loss as a result of environmental conditions may be eligible to sue any party for violating environmental regulations. Even if no one is physically hurt, you may file a lawsuit if you are aware that environmental law is being breached.

What Is A Class Action Lawsuit?

People who are in similar circumstances file a class action lawsuit. An environmental law violation caused the plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit to be likely all hurt or to have comparable property damage. By improving efficiency and reducing litigation costs, class actions enable the courts to more readily manage the individual disputes. In theory, this enables victims to receive compensation faster.

What Role Can My Lawyer Play In A Class Action Lawsuit?

Before you start or join a class action lawsuit, you must have a consultation with a class action lawyer to go through your claim. If your attorney determines you have a solid case, a complaint will be created and lodged on your behalf.

Employing an experienced and qualified lawyer is essential in a class action case because they will represent the interests of all class members rather than just one. Many people who share the same issue can rapidly and equitably achieve justice by bringing a class action lawsuit. Determining whether you are a single victim of an error or misconduct or one of many might be difficult. That is why it would be in your best interests before filing a class action lawsuit to speak with an experienced class action lawyer.

Environmental Racism

Many people think that the environment is a neutral force of nature that neither benefits nor harms any specific community. Like everything else on Earth, the environment is susceptible to human forces. Sadly, these forces frequently promote the most heinous traits of our society, like racism and classism.

For far too long, communities all around our nation have been subjected to environmental injustices, bearing the brunt of dangerous pollution, suffering from underinvestment in essential services and infrastructure, and witnessing the disproportionate consequences of climate change.

Although we do not frequently use the phrase "environmental racism," this does not mean that it should go unrecognized. The term "environmental racism" refers to how minority group neighborhoods, which are primarily made up of people of color and those from low socioeconomic status, are burdened with an unfair share of risks, such as toxic waste facilities, landfills, and other sources of environmental pollutants, ultimately reducing the quality of life and is a serious issue going unchecked in the United States. 

People of color and the poor are continuously denied the right to live in a free and healthy environment because environmental justice scales are constantly tipped against them. The citizens of these communities do not have the same access to secure locations for employment, education, and housing that other Americans have.

During a 2018 study, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) used emission particles to assess the environmental costs of pollution in different American regions. The study found that the burden was 35% higher for people who live in overall poverty and 28% higher for people of color. In all, Black Americans had a burden level that was 54% greater than the population's average.

The EPA And Environmental Justice

In order to provide a safe environment for living, learning, and working, the EPA strives to create a life where everyone, regardless of the demographic group they belong to, may have equal access to the decision-making process and the same degree of protection against environmental and health threats. 

The EPA's commitment to environmental justice applies to all of its efforts, which include:

  • defining principles
  • permits for facilities
  • presenting grants
  • providing licenses
  • evaluating the recommended measures by the federal agencies

In order to address issues and worries about the environment and public health in an efficient and coordinated way, the EPA works with all parties involved. The Office of Environmental Justice's (OEJ) integrated policies, programs, and initiatives in an effort to take environmental justice into account. The OEJ assists organizations in defending the environment and public health in a minority, low-income, tribal, and other vulnerable areas by incorporating environmental justice into their programs, policies, and activities.

What Is Environmental Justice?

The EPA defines environmental justice as the equitable treatment of all people, regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, and their meaningful participation in the creation, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

A Brief History Of Environmental Justice

The history of environmental justice can be traced back to the civil rights and social justice movements of the 1960s, when Latino farm workers in California organized and fought for workplace rights and health safety, as well as when locals in Harlem, New York City, united in opposing a sewage treatment facility.

The environmental justice movement was able to grow across the country in the 1990s by collaborating with other environmental and social justice organizations. In 1994 Executive Order 12898, which created environmental justice offices in the EPA, Department of Justice, and other federal agencies, gave the environmental justice movement official government status.

Thanks to the groups that have emerged from this movement at all levels of society, many people now have a voice in their fight against injustices in the areas of the environment, health, and society. Currently, the environmental justice movement is growing, evolving, and becoming formally incorporated into public policy. 

Product Liability

The duty of any or all parties engaged in the creation of a faulty product that caused harm to customers is referred to as product liability. Unfortunately for consumers, product liability insurance protects businesses from liability in the event that a product causes damage to third parties. Product liability insurance covers claims involving design problems, manufacturing faults, strict liability, and insufficient warnings because they all have the potential to seriously hurt consumers or even cause wrongful death.

These large corporations are protected. So why shouldn’t you? When seeking protection from these large corporations, you will need a knowledgeable lawyer to help you navigate the difficult legal process. Product liability trials against major firms can involve defendants and plaintiffs from a wide variety of jurisdictions because of the multiple stages involved in developing a product and the resulting in a high number of users. In order to find judges who would be sympathetic to their claims, plaintiffs may forum-shop since claims generally include a very large number of parties from several jurisdictions. 

It might be challenging to make a decision among the various possibilities available to you in your region when looking for a defective product lawyer. It's crucial to take experience, client relationships, resources, and outcomes into account when choosing the defective product attorney you want to represent you.

Chemical Exposure In Your Home

Because most Americans spend the majority of their time inside, indoor spaces are a key source of pollution exposure in the United States. As a result, contemporary public health research has paid greater attention to exposure in home settings than it did in the past.

Today's homeowners not only spend a lot of time indoors, but in doing so, they take on DIY home repair projects that entail knocking down walls and ceilings, ripping up floor tiles, and replacing outdated plumbing. However, you do run the risk of unintentionally contaminating the air with hazardous asbestos fibers while remodeling and furnishing your home, which might lead to mesothelioma

What Is Asbestos? 

The naturally occurring mineral asbestos has long been used in a variety of construction materials and other products because of its strength and fire-retardant properties. People who produced, installed, or demolished products containing asbestos may, and in many cases did, develop mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses if they were exposed to the microscopic asbestos particles over a lengthy period of time.

Avoiding Workplace Chemical Exposure

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) upholds stringent laws to protect employees from exposure to dangerous substances. OSHA mandates that employers that have hazardous chemicals in the workplace designate such substances, provide workers with safety information, and teach them on how to handle them properly. OSHA also sets limits on how much of a certain chemical workers are allowed to be exposed to. Employers are required to evaluate possible workplace risks and take action to protect employees.

The most effective way to avoid chemical exposure is to be proactive in identifying possible dangers and advocating for your own rights and safety at work. Both employees and employers should routinely assess risks by:

  • Collecting and researching information on potential or expected workplace dangers.
  • Examining the workplace for dangers that have recently or regularly surfaced.
  • Investigating incidents, illnesses, injuries, and close calls to find flaws in safety and health programs and underlying dangers.
  • Identifying trends in the injuries, illnesses, and risks that have been recorded.
  • Considering dangers posed by unforeseen or peculiar conditions.
  • Prioritizing remedial actions based on an assessment of the possible severity and likelihood of each discovered danger.

If your company has not complied with all of OSHA's requirements for a safe workplace, request that they take steps to do so. If they ignore your request or give you an insufficient solution, file a complaint with OSHA and consider contacting an attorney.

Environmental and Toxic Chemical Exposure Laws

  • Clean Water Act of 1972 (CWA) -The Clean Water Act establishes the essential guidelines for limiting pollutant discharges into American rivers and governing standards for surface water quality. The EPA has implemented pollution control plans under the CWA, which include regulating industrial wastewater.
  • Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) - The Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976 was put in place to impose reporting, record-keeping, testing, and restriction requirements and limitations on chemical substances or mixes.
  • Clean Air Act of 1970 (1970 CAA) - With the implementation of the Clean Air Act in 1970, the federal government's role in the fight against air pollution experienced a substantial adjustment. This legislation authorized the development of comprehensive federal and state regulations to regulate emissions from both stationary (industrial) sources and mobile sources. 

Examples Of Environmental Exposure 

Dupont’s Forever Chemicals (Teflon)

In the 1980s, DuPont acquired a piece of land from cattle rancher Wilbur Tennant to use as a landfill for goods that were supposed to be non-hazardous. On the land, a creek flowed directly into the Ohio River. After seeing peculiar features in the stream and the inexplicable deaths of hundreds of his cows, Wilbur Tennant and Rob Bilott sued DuPont in 1998. During the legal process, Bilott came across internal DuPont documents revealing PFOA contamination of groundwater and plant employees. In 2001, a confidential settlement for the lawsuit was reached.

In 2004, DuPont settled a class action lawsuit with 80,000 plaintiffs in 6 water agencies for $343 million. Additionally, the settlement required the creation of a C8 Science Panel and the funding of a study to collect health information from the PFOA-exposed population and determine whether exposure to it actually caused harm. The 2013 study identified six illnesses, including kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, and ulcerative colitis, as being associated with PFOA exposure.

BP Oil Spill

The Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded and sank on April 20, 2010, leaving the worst oil disaster in the history of maritime oil drilling operations and 11 crew members dead. The rig was working in the Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico. The damaged Macondo well released 4 million barrels of oil over an 87-day period before it was finally sealed up on July 15, 2010. On December 15, 2010, the United States filed a case in District Court accusing BP Exploration & Production and many other defendants of being responsible for the leak.

BP and the DOJ reached an agreement in November 2012 in which BP will admit guilt to 14 criminal charges, including transgressions of the Clean Water Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and 11 counts of felony homicide. The deal contained over $4.5 billion in fines and penalties, of which $1.26 billion would go to a DOJ-managed discretionary fund, $2.4 billion to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), and $350 million to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

Works Cited

The Mesothelioma Center: Support for Cancer Patients & Families, https://www.asbestos.com/. 

“Disparities in Distribution of Particulate Matter Emission Sources by Race and Poverty Status.” American Journal of Public Health, 7 March 2018, https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2017.304297?journalCode=ajph. 

“Environmental Justice | US EPA.” Environmental Protection Agency, https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice. 

“forum shopping | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute.” Legal Information Institute, https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/forum_shopping. “Presidential Documents.” Presidential Documents, 16 February 1994, https://www.archives.gov/files/federal-register/executive-orders/pdf/12898.pdf.

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