According to the Environmental Working Group, highly carcinogenic perfluorooctanoic acid might be in the tap water of as many as 247 million Americans.
PFOA and other “forever chemicals” are very stable, so they are quite effective in industrial and consumer products. These poisons are also very stable in the environment and the human body. Observers state that, while the Safe Drinking Water Act and other federal regulations are on the books, chemical companies are often able to find loopholes or otherwise frustrate enforcement efforts. In addition to PFOA, other toxic chemicals in drinking water include chromium-6 and its cousin, chromium-3.
PFOA Water Poisoning
Perfluorooctanoic acid forms a permanent barrier between two substances. This quality made PFOA ideal for industrial products, like firefighting foam, and consumer products, like Teflon. But the chemical had a dark side that its manufacturer worked hard to conceal.
DuPont scientists synthesized PFOA in the 1940s. As early as 1961, the company knew that perfluorooctanoic acid caused severe liver damages in laboratory tests. Additional experiments the next year confirmed these findings. Yet DuPont did nothing to curtail the production of PFOA or even warn customers about the potential risk.
Most affected people live near a chemical plant, airport, and/or air force base. These places were the leading users of PFOA back in the day. That proximity explains why so many Americans, especially children and elderly people, experience adverse PFOA health effects like:
- Birth defects, such as skeletal malformation, accelerated puberty, and low birth weight,
- Cancer in the kidneys or testicles,
- Liver damage,
- Compromised immune system,
- Thyroid disease, and
- High cholesterol.
Poisoned well water causes most of these effects. Chemically treated water often has some issues, but PFOA contamination normally is not one of them. Additionally, there is some evidence that direct exposure to or inhalation of PFOA could cause adverse health effects. So, people who worked at an airport or chemical plant, or lived with someone who did, are doubly at risk.
Building Your Claim
As mentioned, vulnerable individuals, like older adults and younger children, are especially at risk. The same thing applies to individuals with certain genetic patterns and other pre-existing conditions. Generally, these vulnerabilities do not affect a claim for damages. Full compensation is usually still available.
Victim/plaintiffs have the burden of proof in civil claims. Therefore, solid evidence is essential. In mass tort cases like water poisoning claims, that usually means expert witnesses.
But not just any person with a relevant degree will do. The best experts are people who are well-established professionals who are able to connect with jurors.
There is another complication as well. The defendant always produces a panel of experts who testify that the chemical at issue is safe. In the ongoing Roundup litigation, some Monsanto experts informally claim that drinking a glass of glyphosate (the cancer-causing ingredient in Roundup) is as safe as drinking a glass of water. As far as we know, these experts have never put that theory to the test.
Before any experts can testify, the judge must approve them. Different states have different standards for evaluating expert witnesses. New York’s standard is a bit more relaxed than the rules in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and some other nearby states.
Resolving the Claim
Most civil cases settle out of court. Since so much is at stake, these negotiations often go on for months. During these talks, the best New York personal injury lawyers know when to stand firm and when to compromise. Otherwise, unreasonable demands delay the settlement.
So, many judges refer water poisoning cases to mediation. In this forum, both parties have a duty to negotiate in good faith. They must be willing to make some compromises in order to consummate a deal.
Out of court settlements usually benefit everyone. They reduce legal costs, hasten the end of the case, and give parties more control over the outcome.
Millions of Americans are exposed to chemical poisons when they turn on their taps. For a confidential consultation with an experienced New York personal injury lawyer, contact Marie Napoli.