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Place of exposure
People may be exposed to toxic chemicals or similar dangerous substances from pharmaceutical products, consumer products, the environment, or in the home or at work. Many toxic tort cases arise either from the use of medications, or through exposure at work.
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. 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 may be 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.
An occupational toxic injury case may result in a workers' compensation claim, which is made against the worker's employer. The same injury can potentially support a toxic tort case against "third parties", that is, people or entities other than the employer, such as manufacturers or distributors of chemicals, substancees or equipment that exposed the worker to the chemicals, or the people or entities in control of the premises where the worker was exposed to the toxic chemicals.
Pharmaceutical injuries can occur when a person is injured by a dangerous, defective or contaminated medication. Many pharmaceutical toxic injury cases are mass tort cases, as most medications are consumed by thousands of people. The cases are often litigated against drug manufacturers and distributors, and potentially against prescribing physicians. When prosecuted against drug manufacturers and distributors, 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.
Injury at home
The home has recently become the subject of toxic tort litigation, due to exposure to mold contamination, construction materials such as wood or carpeting treated with formaldehyde, and pesticides, and lead paint. Some imported consumer items, such as toys and ceramics, may be produced with dangerously high levels of lead.
Common chemicals in toxic tort cases
When a toxic tort case is based on chemical exposure, the following chemicals may be involved:
- 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
Among the medical conditions that may be alleged to be caused by exposure to a toxic substance, the following may be claimed in toxic tort cases.
- Aplastic anemia
- Hodgkins disease
- Interstitial lung disease
- Multiple myeloma
- Thrombocytopenic purpura
- Larson, Aaron. "Injury from Chemical Exposure and Dangerous Drugs, and Toxic Tort Law". ExpertLaw. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
- Flanders, S.L. (2007). "A Tough Pill to Swallow: The Insurmountable Burden in Toxic Tort Claims Against Manufacturers of Children's Medications". Journal of Law and Policy. 16: 305–355. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
- Rabin, Robert L. (January 1987). "Environmental Liability and the Tort System". Houston Law Review. 24: 27–53. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
- Blanc, Paul D. (2007). How Everyday Products Make People Sick: Toxins at Home and in the Workplace. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520261273. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
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