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Illegal Chemical Dumping and Environmental Claims

Posted by attorney Edward Lake

Illegal chemical dumping is a serious health concern. Others could be exposed to environmental hazards that cause serious illness or injury. Although household products not disposed of properly could be harmful, state and federal laws only regulate industries' chemical waste disposal. At the same time, this doesn’t dismiss the importance of discarding chemicals of any kind with special care.

Examples of Illegal Chemical Dumping

Illegal dumping is when chemicals are disposed of in a prohibited area. This could include in waters, backyards and storm drains. It is typically done underhandedly, by unmarked equipment/vehicles, under the cover of darkness and in an area where there is limited or no activity.

There are a wide variety of chemicals that could be dumped illegally. One example is tetrachloroethene (PERC), which is a manufactured chemical used for degreasing metal parts, dry cleaning (fabrics), and even in the manufacturing of other chemicals (such as paint/spot removers, glue, water repellents, brake/wood cleaners).

Improperly disposing of tetrachloroethene could cause it to get into the water or into the air. Most often the central nervous system is affected, such as the liver or kidneys. Long-term exposure could cause cancer of the bladder or esophagus. There have also been concerns regarding reproductive risks, such as impaired fertility or miscarriage.

Another example is mercury or hazardous waste that contains this material (thermometers, gauges, blood pressure units, etc.). The unborn and young children are especially at risk of suffering neurological development deficiencies. Mercury poisoning may be evidenced by muscle weakness and impairments affecting vision, hearing, speech, and walking.

Even certain household products can contain hazardous chemicals that should be disposed of properly. Many states, including New York, offer drop-off sites for these materials. Consumers can tell if a product contains a hazardous chemical by looking at the label. Specifically, residents are not allowed to dump batteries, gas cylinders, asbestos, devices containing mercury and some types of electronic equipment in the trash.

Illegal Chemical Dumping and Exposure Risks

Not only are there legal issues associated with illegal dumping, but there also is a risk of exposure. The longer an individual is exposed, the more dangerous, and the greater the quantity, the higher the threat.

There are typically three ways in which people can be exposed to chemicals. The first is by swallowing (such as through drinking water or food), the second is through direct contact (touches the skin) and the last is through breathing (inhaling substances).

Short-term exposure may not be as harmful in the case of many chemicals. It may impact someone for a limited amount of time. But there are circumstances (depending on the chemical) in which the effects may not be felt until days, weeks or even years later.

Long-term or chronic exposure is much more dangerous. It can result in health effects that begin immediately or may impact someone for an entire lifetime.

If it’s believed that illegal chemical dumping was the cause of serious illness or injuries, seek legal counsel. The attorneys at Gacovino, Lake & Associates handle environmental cases and will determine if an environmental claim can be filed and who it may be filed against.

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