An environmental injury involves any harm someone suffers through exposure to toxic substances or pollution. They often develop slowly over time, such as daily exposure to lead paint or asbestos in a home or office. But industrial accidents or spills of dangerous materials can also lead to sudden toxic poisonings after – for example – a plant explosion or derailment of a train carrying petrochemicals or other carcinogenic substances.
Many pollutants can contaminate the water, air, or soil and seriously compromise a person’s health. Some environmental accidental injuries lead to wrongful death. Often such toxic poisonings are the result of some person or company’s negligence. Large companies can dump toxic chemicals into a local water supply. Others violate environmental laws and injure people as a result of an accidental explosion, or purposefully dump dangerous chemicals quietly because they don’t want to pay the money to dispose of them in an environmentally safe manner. Apartment complexes ignore dangerous toxic mold, or landscaping companies ignore warnings about the safe disposition of weed killers or substances that kill dangerous pests and insects. The number of ways in which environmental injuries occur makes a long list.
Some environmental injuries involve the following:
- Lead Poisoning – Lead was once commonly used in home plumbing systems and many household products, including ceramic glazes and many paints. Exposure to levels of lead above the federally defined Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) has been proven to lower victims’ IQ and cause learning disabilities. When children are the victims, lead poisoning seriously s their physical and mental development. Children under age 12 are the most common victims of lead poisoning, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports more than 300,000 children in the U.S. have dangerously high levels of lead in their blood. The EPA warns that lead poisoning in children is a major environmental health problem in our country. Old plumbing and paint aren’t the only sources of this type of environmental injury. Recently a large number of toys were recalled from China for containing excessive levels of lead.
- Mesothelioma – Mesothelioma, specifically malignant mesothelioma, is a rare type of cancer caused by asbestos. Asbestos insulation can be found in older homes built before it was banned in the U.S. in the late 1970s. It is also found in many industrial products such as brake linings, cement, and gaskets, most of which are manufactured overseas. As little as three months of exposure to asbestos can increase a person’s risk of mesothelioma, but it can take decades for symptoms of mesothelioma to present themselves. The time from exposure to first symptoms of the disease is rarely less than 15 years and can take as long as 30 years. Those who work with asbestos without protection run the greatest risk of mesothelioma. But their loved ones are also at increased risk through their exposure to asbestos fibers carried home on the worker’s clothing or in their hair.
- Oil Spills – Over a thousand different hydrocarbons are found in crude oil, including the known carcinogens benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. We who live near the Gulf Coast may risk environmental injury as a result of an oil spill. But cleanup workers run the greatest peril of long-term health effects. Oil-spill injuries can present as respiratory ailments, elevated blood pressure, and chemical burns from the substances that are used to clean up the spill.
- Toxic Mold – and mildew are fungi that develop in damp places. Mold develops toxins and myotoxins and creates spores that are released into the air where they can be inhaled, causing lung inflammation or other health problems, including excessive allergies. Prolonged exposure to toxic mold can cause a variety of preventable illnesses and can be thwarted by residential or commercial property owners who undertake aggressive eradication measures. But these measures are costly, and not all landlords choose to address toxic mold before it causes many health problems in the buildings’ residents or occupants.
- Benzene – Benzene is a colorless gas with a slightly sweet odor. It is commonly used in many chemical solvents, detergents, and paints, to name a few. Benzene is a flame retardant contained in cigarettes and many petroleum products. Benzene can be deadly to those exposed to it for long periods of time; or in high levels. The EPA classifies Benzene as a Class A Carcinogen (the worst kind). Although this chemical occurs naturally in the environment, the major threat comes from chemically modified Benzene used in manmade products. Benzene is linked to various types of leukemia and other serious illnesses. In addition to respiratory problems, skin problems, and blood disorders, it is also linked to many cancers, including Hairy Cell Leukemia and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
- Beryllium – Beryllium is a rare metal which is mined and refined for industrial use. Often combined with metals like aluminum, cobalt, copper, iron, and nickel, it increases their hardness and resistance to corrosion. Beryllium is used in the manufacture of beryllium ceramics, beryllium copper alloy, and beryllium oxide powder. Exposure usually occurs when dust or fumes that contain the substance are naturally released during their manufacturing processes. Workers in the following industries may be unwittingly exposed to beryllium toxins:
- Aerospace Workers
- Dentistry and Dental Products
- Metal Work
- Mining and Refining
- Nuclear Energy.
- Silica – Silica dust exposure is a serious threat to nearly 2,000,000 workers the United States. Included in this number are the 100,000+ workers in high-risk jobs such as construction or manufacture of construction materials. Sandblasting releases silica into the air. As a result of this exposure – which can encompass hundreds, even thousands, of square feet surrounding the sand blasting area – workers risk developing silicosis or “sandblasting disease” from inhaling silica particles in the dust. Like similar toxic exposure-related diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis, silicosis often takes many years to develop into fatal respiratory illnesses.
- Pesticides – Used in agricultural, gardening settings, offices, and homes, pesticides must be handled and used carefully. If they are not, significant harm to victims can occur. Sometimes the symptoms are immediately apparent. Other times it takes many years. Pesticide poisoning can strike the victim’s nervous system, internal organs, and skin. Many cancers are associated with pesticide poisoning and other pernicious illnesses, such as asthma, autism and other learning disabilities, birth defects, and reproductive dysfunction. Often, when an injured plaintiff fillies a product liability claim or lawsuit, it’s against a manufacturer because its instructions or warnings did not adequately warn users of the danger. This is the focus of much of the current Monsanto/Roundup Weed Killer litigation.
By retaining a seasoned Houston environmental injury attorney from Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law who is familiar with these types of cases, you as a victim are taking the first step in receiving the necessary financial help you need to recover from the harm you suffered. Getting proper representation can make certain that those who are at fault are held accountable. Protect yourself by contacting us immediately to arrange a free evaluation of your case.