Articles Posted in Toxic Chemicals

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California’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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The 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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The 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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The Air Quality Management District in California has filed an action against SoCalGas, seeking damages associated with the large-scale methane gas leak that has caused numerous incidences of illness throughout the San Fernando Valley region. The lawsuit seeks a total of $440,000 in damages for each day of the leak, and it indicates that the leak has occurred for over 95 days. The lawsuit alleges claims for public nuisance as well as negligence against SoCalGas in the operation of its Aliso Canyon facility. The lawsuit also alleges that the defendant failed to respond properly to the leak.

The Aliso Canyon leak has made numerous headlines in recent weeks, as the uncontrolled and massive leak of natural gas from a well connected to an underground storage facility in the region continues. The gas storage facility is the second-largest storage facility of this type in the nation and belongs to Southern California Gas Company. Some sources indicate that the environmental harm that has occurred and continues to occur as a result of the leak is more substantial and severe than the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred off the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico during 2010. On January 6, 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown dubbed the gas leak a state of emergency.

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A lawsuit brought by the California Attorney General claiming that Nabisco Ginger Snap cookies contain nine times the amount of lead allowed according to California law has settled for $750,000. The California Attorney General, alongside 11 district attorneys, brought the action against parent company Mondelez International, originally part of Kraft Foods, in the County of Orange on January 21, seeking damages according to California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, also known as Proposition 65.

Lead poses serious risks to humans due to its properties as a neurotoxin. The ingestion of lead affects the central nervous system and can result in severe injuries like cancer, reproductive disabilities, birth defects, and even death. When children consume lead, they face even more serious symptoms and illnesses, including developmental delay, sluggishness, and vomiting. Adults who ingest lead over a sustained period of time commonly exhibit symptoms like memory loss, abdominal pain, mood changes, and high blood pressure.

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E-cigarettes, or vapor cigarettes, have become an incredibly popular alternative to traditional tobacco products, with over 250 different companies currently selling the devices. Many tout the electronic apparatuses as a better alternative to using traditional tobacco products because they produce less odor, cost less than traditional tobacco products, and are less dangerous when it comes to creating fire hazards.

Despite these alleged benefits, some researchers have dug into whether the new alternative provides fewer health risks than using traditional tobacco products. Last month, Harvard University researchers produced results from a study in which they examined a few different types of flavored electronic cigarette products. The study involved testing over 50 varieties of flavored products and liquids marketed by the most common brands. The tests looked for a variety of chemicals, including diacetyl, acetoin, and two varieties of pentanedione.

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Earlier this month, Vermont’s Toxic Substances in Children’s Products Rule took effect. According to this rule, companies that sell children’s products in Vermont must make certain disclosures about whether the products contain any of the 66 chemicals specified in the legislation if the chemical is present as a contaminant (100 ppm or more), or if the chemical was intentionally added beyond the chemical’s practical quantification limit (PQL).

Some of the chemicals included on the list are formaldehyde, methylene chloride, styrene, and a number of parabens. A manufacturer’s report must include the name of the chemical, a description of the chemical, the amount contained in each product unit, the name and address of the product’s manufacturer, the reason the chemical was included in the product, and the brand name and product model.

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In mass tort cases, one of the toughest elements for plaintiffs to prove is that the product’s harmful nature caused the plaintiffs’ injuries. This is especially true in cases involving exposure to harmful chemicals. In our modern environment, there are a host of chemicals that we encounter on a daily basis, whether we know it or not. Determining whether a chemical is harmful and whether that chemical was the cause of the plaintiff’s alleged injuries can be a challenge.

The recent case of C.W. ex rel. Wood v. Textron, Inc. touched on this subject and provided the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal with an opportunity to review the types of scientific evidence that parties may offer in relation to proving both specific and general causation in a mass tort case.

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