Articles Posted in Toxic Torts

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According to an internal audit conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of the Inspector General titled “EPA’s Alternative Asbestos Control Method Experiments Lacked Effective Oversight and Threatened Human Health,” asbestos removal experiments conducted by the EPA for more than a decade threatened both human health and the environment.

The OIG report, which was released on September 25, 2014, provides that experiments conducted between 2004 and 2012 to study alternative methods to demolish building containing asbestos may have exposed workers and the public to harm. Included in the OIG report are conclusions that the EPA used its enforcement discretion to ignore violations of environmental law, and that the EPA’s research lacked appropriate oversight and research goals.

If the AACM experiments caused harm, the government may be liable for damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Basic information about the FTCA can be found in a previous post titled “Suing the Government For Negligence Under the Federal Tort Claims Act.”
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Topamax is a very popular antiseizure medication prescribed around the country to treat epilepsy and migraine headaches. Topamax also goes by the generic name, Topiramate.

On March 4, 2011, the Food and Drug Administration issued an official Safety Alert about Topamax. The Safety Alert entitled “Topamax (topiramate): Label Change – Risk For Development of Cleft Lip and/or Cleft Palate In Newborns,” provided that the FDA had changed Topamax from a Category “C” to a Category “D” pregnancy drug. Category “D” pregnancy drugs have the potential to harm a developing fetus.

Prior to March of 2011, the Topamax package insert did not expressly mention cleft palate in newborns as a potential side effect the drug. The newly revised package language provides that “TOPAMAX use during pregnancy can cause cleft lip and/or cleft palate,” “[p]regnancy: increases risk of cleft lip and/or palate,” and “[d]ata from pregnancy registries indicate that infants exposed to topiramate in utero have an increased risk for cleft lip and/or cleft palate (oral clefts).” Additional information can be found in our entry entitled “Syracuse New York Topamax Birth Defect Lawyers Report Risk of Cleft Palate.”

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A recent U.K. study of more than 11 million patients recently revealed that people taking antispychotic drugs are at an increased risk for blood clots. The increased risk may be as much as 30%. According to Syracuse stroke lawyer Michael A. Bottar, “blood clots can form almost anywhere and, if they break free, they can travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolus. A pulmonary embolus, which has symptoms similar to a heart attack, may result in sudden death.”

High risk drugs identified in the study include atypical drugs like Seroquel, Risperdal and Zyprexa, as well as conventional drugs like Thorazine and Haldol. While the risk of being diagnosed with a blood clot while taking an antidepressant remains small, the study did establish that these drugs may drastically increase the risk of a clot. According to researchers, “Seroquel use was associates with a nearly threefold adjusted increase in risk among the study population.” Doctors should be aware of the risks so that they can avoid prescribing these drugs to patients already at high risk for clots, and so that they can properly monitor patients taking the drugs to prevent or timely treat a thrombosis or embolus. Where a doctor fails to diagnose a clot, and the clot causes harm, s/he may be liable for medical malpractice.
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Johnson & Johnson and McNeil Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer(s) of several well-known over-the-counter (OTC) children’s medications, recently recalled several lots of Infants’ Tylenol, Children’s Tylenol, Children’s Motrin, Children’s Zyrtec and Children’s Benadryl. According to the company, some of the medicines being recalled “may contain a higher concentration of active ingredient than is specified.” Others “may contain inactive ingredients that may not meet internal testing requirements.” Still others “may contain tiny particles.”

While the risk of harm to consumers is low, if your child got sick after taking Tylenol, you and your child may be entitled to compensation from McNeil and should consider calling a Syracuse product liability lawyer, such as a Bottar Leone, PLLC attorney, to discuss a Tylenol recall lawsuit. According to an FDA report, the recall was prompted by “sloppy” quality control. Debra M. Autor, of the FDA, told the New York Times that “[t]his is yet another example of the need for companies to take full accountability for the quality of their drugs, and the serious consequences that can happen when companies do not do so.”

Investigators believe that some of the medications were manufactured with raw ingredients that were contaminated with a still-unknown bacteria. According to McNeill, no product containing bacteria was sold. We believe that McNeill’s apparent surprise at the possibility of contamination is suspect, given that it received complaints of foul smelling Tylenol Arthritis Pain caplets in early 2008. Those complaints were not reported to the FDA’s Recalls and Shortages Branch until September of 2009.
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Several different brands of children’s face paints have been recalled due to “adverse reactions.” The paints were recalled following a release from the Food and Drug Administration, which reported complaints of rashes, irritation and swelling where the paints were applied to children’s faces. According to reports, the paints contained high yeast and mold counts.

Fun Express, Inc., recalled the paints. Fun Express is a wholly owned subsidiary of Oriental Trading Co. The paints were made in China by Shanghai Color Art Stationery Company, Ltd. The recalled product numbers are:

85/2077 (blue)
85/2078 (purple)
85/2079 (red)
85/2080 (orange)
85/2081 (black)
85/2082 (green)
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According to the Post Standard and a recent study conducted by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, lead levels were elevated in the dirt from all but one Syracuse-area garden tested. The gardens tested around Syracuse include: Isabella Street Community Garden, West Newell Street Garden, Avery Avenue Garden, Lipe Art Park, Wescott Garden, Townsend Garden.

Many of the gardens, which are located on the City’s north and south sides, are maintained by resident gardeners who have worked for years in the dirt and soil. These residents, who today learned that they may have been exposed to lead and other toxic chemicals, are understandably upset. Especially as, according to the study, the City of Syracuse may have been once source of the contamination.

Normal lead levels are 40-50 ppm. The levels in the gardens tested ranged from 46-820 ppm. More disturbing was the fact that the arsenic levels were even higher. Normal arsenic levels are 0.4 ppm. In all but one garden tested, the levels were 8-17 ppm. Possible sources of the lead contamination include roadway runoff laced with pre-1986 lead gasoline additives, lead-paint from homes, and topsoil trucked by the City to the gardens – topsoil which the City collected from Syracuse-area yard waste. The arsenic contamination like came from decomposing pressure-treated wood and/or pesticides.

Chemicals in the gardens is a cause of concern for many, as dozens of residents have worked the soil for years. Some of the gardens have also been used to grow food. Without proper precautions, lead and arsenic can be absorbed by the body through contact.

There is no safe level of exposure to lead or paint. Lead exposure can make adults sick and can cause permanent neurological and brain damage in children. Arsenic exposure has been linked to damage to the circulatory systems as well as cancer.

The Post Standard quoted Mable Wilsonm founder of the Newell Street Community Garden, as saying that “[i]t feels like environmental discrimination. This is our community. You are tearing it down. At least put down good soil.”


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Residents in Herkimer County and Oneida County are not breathing the worst air in the nation, but it could be better. According to the American Lung Association’s 2009 State of the Air Report, residents in Herkimer County and Oneida County are not among the more than 186,000,000 Americans breathing air that received a failing grade, but their air is only a “C.”

A “C” is indicative of air quality that, on at least one day a year, is unhealthy for sensitive groups of people. According to the American Lung Association in New York, “every day that residents in the region are forced to breathe in harmful air is one day too many.”

Area officials are committed to reducing pollution and bettering air quality in order to reduce the risk of lung damage and associated diseases, such as asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, adult respiratory distress syndrome, and lung cancer.
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The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released a new standard today with regard to testing paint and painted products, such as children’s toys, for lead. The new standard document (CPSC-CH-E1003-09) can be found here. Rules contained in the Ban of Lead-Containing Paint and Certain Consume Products Bearing Lead Containing Paint, CFR, Title 16, Part 1303, remain unchanged.

In short, the new protocol includes a standard for composite testing, as recommended by the Toy Industry Association Working Group. Composite testing, whether composite-testing-like-parts or composite-testing-different-parts involves sampling paint from several different product parts in order to secure a sample size sufficient for lead (pB) testing.
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