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People are typically exposed to toxic chemicals from pharmaceuticals, from consumer products, from the environment, in the home, and at work. Most toxic tort cases arise either from exposure to pharmaceutical drugs or occupational exposures.
There have also been many occupational toxic tort cases, because industrial and other workers are often chronically exposed to toxic chemicals - more so than consumers and residents. Most of the law in this area arises from asbestos exposure. However, thousands of toxic chemicals are used in industry and workers in these areas can experience a variety of toxic injuries. Unlike the general population, which is exposed to trace amounts of thousands of different chemicals in the environment, industrial workers are regularly exposed to much higher levels of chemicals and therefore have a greater risk of developing disease from particular chemical exposures than the general population.
Occupational toxic tort cases arise from work but differ from workers' compensation claims, because workers' compensation claims are made against the worker's employer, while an occupational toxic tort case usually must be brought against "third parties", i.e., people or entities other than the employer—usually manufacturers or distributors of chemicals or the machines or devices that expose the worker to the chemicals, or the owners and lessors of premises where the worker was exposed to the toxic chemicals.
Most pharmaceutical toxic injury cases are mass tort cases, as drugs are consumed by thousands of people. They are often litigated against drug manufacturers and distributors, as well as prescribing physicians. Pharmaceutical toxic tort cases differ from medical malpractice suits in that pharmaceutical toxic tort cases are essentially product liability cases, the defective product being the drug.
People can also be injured from environmental toxins in the air or in drinking water. In recent years, lawyers have been filing an increasing number of environmental toxic tort cases.
Common chemicals in toxic tort cases
- Nerve agents (including sarin)
- Dioxins and dioxin-like compounds / Agent Orange
- Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)
- Hexavalent chromium
- Chromium(III) oxide
Common diseases in toxic tort cases
- Aplastic anemia
- Hodgkins disease
- Interstitial lung disease
- Multiple myeloma
- Thrombocytopenic purpura
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