The effects of toxic poisoning due to exposure to chemicals in the air we breathe, the medicines we take, and the food and water we consume, can have long term consequences to our physical and reproductive health, and even to our neurological function and intellectual capacity. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some common health issues linked to long-term exposure to toxins, and the kinds of legal claims that might arise.
Toxic Poisoning from Lead
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that every year over 250,000 children between the ages of one and five will present with toxic levels of lead in their blood. Since lead crosses the placental barrier, both pregnant women and their developing infants are at risk for toxic poisoning from lead exposure. Lead poisoning in pregnant women can lead to anemia, seizures, miscarriage, stillbirth or pre-term delivery of low birth weight infants.
The New England Journal of Medicine reports that exposure to lead can cause permanent cognitive impairment in children, including "deficits in vocabulary, fine motor skills, reaction time and hand-eye coordination".
Chronic lead toxicity can lead to hearing loss, anemia, damage to blood cells, heart, bones, kidneys and other organs, as well as coma and death in both children and adults.
Lead is a naturally occurring chemical element. Toxic poisoning can occur through ingestion, inhalation, and absorption through the skin. Avoid exposure to older houses (prior to 1978) containing lead-based paint. Avoid drinking water that passes through pipes which have been soldered or lined with lead. Jewelry, pottery or toys coated or glazed with lead-based products should also be avoided.
Health Effects of Mold and Fungus
Long term effects from mycotoxins in fungus and mold can cause chronic sinus infections, bleeding of the lungs, memory loss or other neurological disorders. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides safety guidelines for proper mold cleanup.
In some cases, the builder or contractor who constructed or renovated a home may be liable for using sub-standard materials, when that practice leads to the development of toxic mold. Learn more: Suing Over Toxic Mold.
Fifty percent of the people in America rely on groundwater as their primary source of water. Contaminants such as nitrates and nitrites, found naturally in the soil, can pollute groundwater. Fertilizers, pesticides, farm runoff, septic tanks and seepage from underground storage tanks can contaminate wells.
Pollutants that can be found in drinking water include arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, nitrates or nitrites, pentachloro-phenol, thallium, vanadium, and zinc. Toxic poisoning from these pollutants can have dire effects upon the body, ranging anywhere from DNA damage, endocrine disruption, fetal abnormalities, cancer, damage to major organs, neurological abnormalities and reproductive difficulties.
Suppliers of public water are required by law to provide Consumer Confidence Reports to their customers regarding the safety of their community water system. Public water systems are exempt.
Health Problems from Chemicals and Pharmaceutical Drugs
Here’s a quick look at other potentially harmful substances and the health problems linked to them:
- The chemical benzene is associated with aplastic anemia and leukemia.
- Asbestos is linked to lung cancer and mesothelioma.
- Industrial chemicals, hazardous wastes, herbicides and pesticides can cause long term physical or neurological damage.
- Improperly tested or unreasonably dangerous drugs may be harmful to the patients, especially when side effects are undisclosed or when those side effects outweigh the health benefits of taking the drug. Recent examples of tort cases regarding pharmaceuticals include Zoloft, Paxil, Celebrex and the diabetes drug called Avandia. The manufacturers of these and other drugs may have legal liability for injuries and negative health effects associated with use of the drugs. Learn more about product liability.