By Louis Rumao
It is high time that all companies, large and small, needed to take notice if chemicals they produce could be hazardous to the company’s health!
Employees are often exposed to chemicals in a manufacturing workplace, while consumers could be exposed during the intended use of a product. Our litigious society mandates that companies train and protect their workers, and also educate consumers in proper use, handling and disposal of chemicals, thereby preventing life-altering injuries. Workers in the rubber-manufacturing industry are exposed to dusts and fumes from rubber-making and vulcanization processes. Potential exposures include N-nitrosamines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, solvents, and phthalates. While Inhalation is the main route of exposure, workers may have dermal exposure through exposed skin as well.
A person who suffers personal injury as a result of being exposed to a harmful chemical may file a chemical exposure lawsuit, either as a worker’s compensation claim or as a personal injury claim, seeking compensation. In the U.S., it is exceedingly easy to file a legal claim for injury. There is a huge number of lawyers, nearly 1.4 million according to the American Bar Association’s National Lawyer Survey, and, under the contingency fee arrangement, it does not cost anything to file a claim. A contingency fee arrangement means that lawyers finance the case out of their own pocket and you only pay for their services if & when you have been awarded compensation for your injuries.
A class action lawsuit is a claim in which a group of people collectively bring a complaint to court. These types of lawsuits are filed against a defendant, usually a company with deep pockets, on behalf of a group of “similarly affected” people. The court determines whether there are sufficient similarities and that separate lawsuits would be impractical or burdensome. Then it will certify the group as a class and allow them to litigate their case collectively.
Some recent examples
The Bhopal disaster in India, also referred to as the Bhopal gas tragedy, was a gas leak incident in December 1984 at the Union Carbide plant that killed nearly 8,000 people and injured more than 500,000 people. Following are some fresh examples of injuries caused by chemicals.
Prolonged inhalation of asbestos can cause serious and fatal diseases including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. According to the Environmental Working Group Action Fund, 10,000 people die each year from Asbestos-caused diseases in the United States. Although the use of asbestos has been mostly phased out, injury claims continue to be filed on behalf of individuals who worked with asbestos and were not protected from the known risk of lung disease. Asbestos litigation is the single longest-running, most expensive mass lawsuit in the history of the United States. To date, more than 800,000 claimants have filed suit against more than 8,500 defendants, and there will likely be another 700,000 such cases in the foreseeable future. In 2017 alone, more than 4,000 asbestos lawsuits were filed in America. RAND Corp. characterized the exposure of the American workers to asbestos as “the worst occupational health disaster in U.S. history,” In order to avoid constant lawsuits, the defendant companies have established trusts, setting aside money specifically to provide compensation to victims. The amount of money that the trusts now hold is estimated at $30 billion dollars, which explains the barrage of advertisements from lawyers, eager to file claim on your behalf.
Chemicals used in Food Production – such as Diacetyl used as a buttery flavored additive – can induce lung disease. In 2000, a physician reported that eight former microwave-popcorn factory workers had developed a rare and disabling lung disease. After investigating numerous possible sources, researchers ultimately determined the cause of lung damage – a vapor from butter flavoring added to the popcorn. In a recent trial in California, the jury awarded one plaintiff a $2.6 million verdict against Citrus and Allied Essences Ltd., the company that supplied the diacetyl.
Also referred to as ‘heavy metal toxicity’, exposure to metals like lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and manganese can cause serious side effects.
The risks of environmental contamination and property damage are often catastrophic and irreversible, especially when it contaminates ground water supply. A chemical spill of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), from a plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia, allegedly contaminated water supplies, and possibly causing various ailments. Dupont and Chemours Company paid $671 million to settle thousands of lawsuits involving personal injury claims.
Pesticides and Herbicides – the Latest Biggie!
NEWS FLASH: A U.S. jury in May 2019 found that a widely used herbicide, Roundup, is carcinogenic and awarded more than $2 billion to a couple in California who used the chemical on their property — the largest verdict in the glyphosate litigation ever!
Chemicals used to kill weeds in our crops and insects in our homes and on our food have been linked to serious side effects such as cancer and neurodevelopment in children. Right now, lawsuits are being filed against Monsanto for cancers alleged to be caused by Roundup, their top-selling herbicide that is made with glyphosate. Every year, farmers spray, on average, almost a pound of Roundup on every acre of cropland in the U.S. These Lawsuits claim that Monsanto has known for more than 30 years that there is a link between the use of Roundup and cancer, yet failed to warn the public of the dangers.
Bayer AG of Germany, which inherited the Roundup litigation with its $63 billion acquisition of Monsanto in 2018, faces lawsuits by more than 13,400 plaintiffs nationwide, alleging the product causes cancer. Bayer AG plans to argue that a $2 billion jury award and thousands of U.S. lawsuits claiming its glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup causes cancer should be tossed because a U.S. regulatory agency said the herbicide is not a public health risk.
The Germany-based company’s shares have been hammered since the first Roundup cancer verdict against it last August, wiping out some 40 billion euros ($44.76 billion) in market value and leaving Bayer worth less than the price it paid for Monsanto.
Bayer denies that Roundup causes cancer, saying decades of studies have shown glyphosate and the weed killer to be safe. The company said it will argue that the lawsuits, which are brought under State law, conflict with guidance from a Federal agency, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which reaffirmed prior guidance saying that glyphosate is not a carcinogen and not a risk to public health when used in accordance with its current label.
It looks like Bayer AG will have to work the appeals process all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In any case, all companies, large and small, need to take notice that chemicals could be hazardous to your company’s health!