Contact with toxic substances or harmful chemicals constitutes toxic exposure. The proliferation of industry has resulted in many of these substances causing injury through exposure in the workplace as well as through contact with contaminated areas. More and more substances, once thought safe, are turning out to cause serious health issues. Chemicals once thought benign like Benzene and dry cleaning fluid (PCE) are coming to light as being hazardous to human health and safety. A toxic tort lawsuit is one that involves injury to a party due to toxic exposure that can be attributed to the negligence of another party. WJD Law has many years of field work, in and out of the legal profession, analyzing and identifying toxic threats as well as the finest laboratory consultants and experts in the pathways by which toxins attack us. We work one on one with the victims to see that they get the care and compensation due them, and do our best to make sure the responsible parties hurt no others.
Benzene

Benzene

Benzene is a hydrocarbon with the molecular formula C6H6. Benzene is a natural constituent of crude oil, and is one of the most elementary petrochemicals. It is a colorless and highly flammable liquid with a sweet smell. It is mainly used as a precursor to heavy chemicals, such as ethylbenzene and cumene, which are produced on a billion kilogram scale. Most non-industrial applications have been limited by benzene's carcinogenicity. The contamination of water and soil is the worst cause of exposure to benzene. Approximately 100,000 sites in the U.S. have soil or groundwater contaminated with benzene. Benzene increases the risk of cancer and other illnesses, most notably bone marrow failure. Much clinical, and laboratory data links benzene to leukemia, aplastic anemia, and bone marrow abnormalities. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), aplastic anemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) have been direcly linked to benzene exposure.
In 1948 the American Petroleum Institute stated that "it is generally considered that the only absolutely safe concentration for benzene is zero." and it is classified as a human carcinogen by the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
In women high levels of benzene exposure for many months caused irregular menstrual periods and decreased the size of their ovaries. In men the likely effect is abnormal amount of chromosomes in their sperm, which can impact fertility and fetal development. Benzene exposure has been linked directly to the neural birth defects spina bifida and anencephaly.
Benzene is widely used in the manufacture of heavy chemicals, plastics, rubber, lubricants, paints, adhesives, resins, pesticides and many other products. Benzene was found in Liquid Wrench, lacquer thinners, flooring adhesives, motor oils, penetrating oils, hydraulic fluids, and many different brands of solvents. Toluene and xylene, commonly used solvents, contain benzene.
The people with the highest risk of developing benzene-related illnesses are industrial workers in positions where the exposure is prolonged and concentrated. Workers at refineries, chemical plants, steel mills, textile plants and print shops have been known to have experienced high benzene exposures. Some industries where benzene exposure could occur include:

Adhesive Production
Shipyard
Chemical Workers
Dock Workers
Furniture Strippers
Gasoline Distribution
Industrial plant Workers (jobs with solvent exposures)
Newspaper Press Workers
Offshore and Oil Workers
Painters
Pesticide Manufacturing
Pipefitters
Printers
Refinery Workers
Rubber Workers
Shoe / Leather Workers
Synthetic Rubber Production
Tanker men
Tire Plant Workers

Occupations in refineries or chemical plants could very well involve significant benzene exposure. Coke oven workers or workers in byproduct plants of steel mills may also have been exposed to high concentrations of benzene. Instrument workers, boilermakers, carpenters, insulators, operating engineers, and machinists who worked with benzene or other solvents (such as toluene) may also have had substantial exposures to benzene. Workers on barges hauling gasoline products (up until the mid-1990s when closed vapor systems became required) could also have experienced hazardous benzene exposures.
Asbestos

Asbestos

Asbestos has been known to cause malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. Asbestos is a silicate mineral comprised of thin fibrous crystals. There are different forms of asbestos, commonly know by their color (blue, white, etc.) Asbestos became a popular building material in the 20th century due to its superior properties of sound absorption, tensile strength, insulative properties, and resistance to fire , heat, electrical and chemical damage. Due to these properties, before the health hazards posed by asbestos became known, it was widely used in building construction, ship building, and many other commercial applications. Even though asbestos had been suspected of causing respiratory problems for a very long time, serious consideration of the problems was not raised until the 1920's, but public health concerns did not bring about the beginning of phasing out asbestos until the 1980's. Some documents came to light in the late 1970's showing that the leaders of the asbestos industry had been aware of the dangers since the 1930s and had purpously concealed the information. The result of the deceit and apathy of the industry was and is the longest, most expensive mass tort in U.S. history. At least 100,000 people in the United States have become terminally ill or died from exposure to asbestos in the ship building industry alone. At least 1.5 percent of WW2 ship builders died from asbestosis or mesothelioma. Have you or someone you know been affected by asbestos exposure? We can help.
Mold

Mold

Mold contamination is a very serious problem in apartment buildings, residential homes and offices across the nation and especially in New York City. Not only it is unsightly, but the spores that you breathe can cause a host of health problems. Health problems can include rashes, asthma, chronic fatigue, nausea, cognitive loss and in very rare cases, death. Mold comes in various colors and shapes. Most are not harmful. The harmful molds, stachybotrys, penicillium, aspergilus, paecilomyces, and fusarium, are black, white, green, or gray. They can be in plain sight or hidden between walls, under floors and in ceilings. Only a team of experts, through air sampling and blood tests, can determine for sure if the mold present in your living quarters has harmed your body. In NYC, the landlord must follow the Department of Health guidelines for indoor air quality, as well as adhere to their duty to provide you a habitable premises. As a tenant, if you have suffered health effects from mold contamination in your rented apartment, you may have legal recourse to recover for your injuries. In addition to apartment renters, if you have purchased a home, regardless if it is a new or used home, you have the right to know if the home has any mold contamination problems. You may have legal recourse to recover compensation for the costs of the abatement and any illnesses that may have arisen from it, if the mold contamination was not disclosed to you prior to the sale. Are you suffering from a mold hazard that you are not responsible for? We can help.
Insecticides

Insecticides

Insecticides are a modern staple used to limit the damage that can be done by insects. Much of the increase in post industrial agricultural efficiency can be attributed to them, however many are toxic to humans and all of them have the ability to effect the ecological balance in a negative fashion. Insecticides reach their targets in a number of different ways. Some are applied to plants, where they kill the bugs which are feeding on the plants, others act on contact with the target insects, and others are manufactured by plants themselves, either naturally or by way of genetic manipulation. There are several different ways in which insecticides accomplish their task. Organochlorides like DDT opens sodium channels in the insect's nerve cells. Organophosphates and carbamates also target the insect's nervous system by interfering with the enzymes acetylcholinesterase and other cholinesterases. They work in essentially the same way as chemical neurotoxins that target large animals (read 'humans') do and have a cumulative effect, making them dangerous to the ecosystem. They are being used less as effective substitutes have been developed. Pyrethrum is a natural insecticide compound found in Chrysanthemums. Pyrethroid pesticides have been developed that work in the same way, and are the most commonly used in household products. These are less toxic and persistent than most agricultural and industrial pesticides. Nicotine is another naturally occurring insecticide that has been emulated and modified to a more efficient and persistent form with less toxicity to mammals. These compounds are known as neonicotinoids and work as acetylcholine receptor agonists. They are broad spectrum insecticides and require direct contact, so are usually applied as sprays or soil drenches. Ryanodine is another naturally occurring insecticide in the plant Ryania speciosa. The sythetic versions of these are called ryanoids and they function by binding calcium channels in cardiac and skeletal muscle in order to block nerve transmission. There are of course many others but these are the main players in insecticides. The most recent and most controversial way of insect control in to genetically engineer food crops which produce substances that are toxic to insects as part of their chemical growth process. Specific insects can be genetically targeted by way of the plants production of specific proteins that are toxic to them and inhibit their reproductive ability. Genetically engineered crops are expected to replace most applied insecticides as the technique advances.
Pesticides

Pesticides

Pesticides have been linked to serious health and environmental issues for quite a while. People with occupations which require the handling and disbursement of pesticides show a marked increase in symptoms like headaches, nausea, cramps, dizziness, vomiting, eye problems and rashes. Farm workers who handle pesticides have been associated with increased cancer rates. Pregnant women with occupational exposure have been linked to birthing children with higher risk of leukemia, Wilms' tumor, and brain cancer. Pesticides and herbicides have also been determined to significantly increase the risk of Parkinsons disease.Pesticide usage is widespread and exposure can occur occupationaly, from food consumption, at schools or at home. Due to their particular vulnarability to disease and insect, strawberries and tomatoes use the most intensive amounts of soil fumigants. 3.7 million pounds of metham sodium were used on tomatoes in California in 2003. Besides health concerns, pesticides can have a severe impact on the ecology. Only a small percentage of pesticides sprayed on crops actually affects the targeted pests, the rest is absorbed into the soil, carried away by runoff into streams and aquifers and blown by wind to other areas potentially affecting untargeted species.
PCE

Perchloroethylene

PCE or tetrachloroethylene (or perchloroethylene) is a chlorocarbon with the formula Cl2C=CCl2. Commonly known as "PERC" it is a colorless liquid used as dry-cleaning fluid and metal degreaser due to it's properties as a volatile, highly stable, and nonflammable solvent for organic materials. Tetrachloroethylene is classified as a Group 2A carcinogen (probably carcinogenic to humans) and shares the characteristics of most chlorinated hydrocarbons of being a central nervous system depressant and skin irritant that enters the body through respiratory or dermal exposure. Tetrachloroethylene exposure can be detected with a breath test for weeks following a heavy exposure because it accumulates in body fat and is released in to the blood as the fat is burned. Due to widespread use PCE is a common soil contaminant, and because it's liquid state is heavier than water, cleanup is difficult. It has, however, been successfully remediated by chemical treatment or bioremediation. Due to it's volitility most tetrachloroethylene winds up in the air and takes 5–6 months to degrade into phosgene, trichloroacetyl chloride, hydrogen chloride, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide.
TCE

Trichloroethylene

TCE is the shortened name for the chemical compound trichloroethylene, a commonly used industrial solvent. TCE was originally developed as an anesthetic, used well into the 1950's and as pain relief for childbirth into the 1970's, until concerns over fetal toxicity and the potentially carcinogenic properties of the substance led to it's abandonment for this purpose. Occupational exposure to trichloroethylene has been linked to toxic effects on the liver and kidneys as well as leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Parkinson's, although it is suggested that low level exposure does not present significant risk. Trichloroethylene has been listed by the EPA as a known carcinogen, so groundwater contamination is a major concern in affected areas. A liquid that is heavier than water, it is easily transported into aquifers. The way in which it can be easily volatilized by hot water means that the air supply in buildings can become contaminated if the groundwater is contaminated. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Trichloroethylene has been detected in 852 Superfund sites across the United States, as well as many know instances of TCE being dumped, leaked or poured into rivers before it's high level of toxicity was understood.
Silica

Silica

Silica, which is the common nomenclature for Silicon dioxide (SiO2) occurs naturally as quartz and in some life forms. Commercial application forms include fused quartz, crystal, fumed silica, silica gel, and aerogels which are used in microelectronics, structural materials, the food industry and more. Silicon dioxide is produced by processing quartz which accounts for approximately 10% of the earth's crust. Ingested silica is essentially nontoxic but the inhalation of finely divided crystalline silica dust is linked to bronchitis, silicosis, and cancer. The dust stays in the lungs and causes constant tissue irritation. Studies have shown 10-times higher rates of lupus and other autoimmune diseases in of workers with exposure to crystalline silica. New OSHA regulations in 2013 reduced the exposure limit if silica from 100 µg per cubic meter of air to 50 µg/m3 in occupational exposure. The construction industry limit was previously set at 250 µg/m3. Crystalline silica particles do not dissolve in the body over any time period that could be considered clinically relevant, and can activate the NLRP3 inflammasome resulting in the maturation of pro-Interleukin 1 beta, a highly pro-inflammatory cytokine in the immune system.
How do I know if my home has been contaminated?
If you believe that a nearby source of toxic contamination has infiltrated your home, you should contact an expert to sample the air and water for analysis at a qualified laboratory.
My Co-Worker is sick and he believes it is due to benzene exposure at work. Should I be worried? What should I do?
If you believe there is a chance you have been exposed yourself, get checked out by a doctor not affiliated with your company, one that has a background in toxicology would be preferable.