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September 5, 2017

Toxic Exposures Threaten Superfund Sites

In 1980, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) was enacted in response to a growing numbers of hazardous waste sites that were releasing toxic chemicals and polluting the environment. The program known as Superfund was designed to clean up these hazardous sites by having the responsible parties pay for the clean-up of contamination, unless the responsible party is unable to do so. Even though over the years the majority of funding comes from the tax payers, Superfund sites play an important role in keeping toxic chemicals and hazardous waste under control and out of civilian life.

Late last week in Houston and the surrounding area, aerial images confirmed 13 of the 41 Superfund sites were flooded by Hurricane Harvey, raising the threat to possible pollution and damage from contaminated waters .Oil refineries, chemical plants, oil and gas wells, and steel mills all have the potential to release toxic chemicals if these Superfund sites become too damaged. The rising flood water may carry away and spread toxic materials over an area that was not previously contaminated, or contaminated groundwater could filter into the system, exposing people to dangerous levels of benzene, creosote, toxic dioxins, and PCBs. Residents are concerned that soil from waste pits that contain toxins and dioxins that are linked to some birth defects and cancer, is now exposed.

Exposure to benzene can be incredibly dangerous and lead to several forms of cancer including Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) which is a cancer that originates in the bone marrow. It grows quickly and renders the body useless in being able to fight off other infections. Water may become contaminated with benzene when underground storage tanks from hazardous waste sites are damaged and begin leaking. The ExxonMobil plant damaged by Hurricane Harvey has released more than 12,500 lbs. of chemicals, including benzene, into the atmosphere.

The water may now be receding in Houston, but that does not mean the threat of toxic chemical exposure is over. The receding water is now full of contaminates like pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which can cause skin infections, liver damage,  neurological effects, and damage to the immune and reproductive system.  Injuries caused by toxic exposures can take months, years, or even decades to develop and while exposures due to natural disasters often cannot be helped, thousands of people have been injured by toxic exposure at the workplace.

Since the 1970s, the lawyers at Goldberg, Persky  & White, P.C.,  have been protecting the rights of those injured by toxic exposures. Our clients have been injured by these toxic products on the job, through secondary exposure, and through contact with seemingly harmless household products. We have helped many people who have been injured themselves, but also many families who’ve lost loved ones to toxic exposures. Contact us today to find out how our toxic tort lawyers can help you.

 

Source:

Jason Dearen, “AP Exclusive: Toxic Waste Sties Flooded Houston Area,” AP (September 3, 2017). [Link]

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