Bronx Personal Injury & Real Estate Blog

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

We Still Need Erin Brockovich!

Over 15 years ago, the film Erin Brockovich, which told the story of a legal clerk and environmental activist who helped to build a case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company for their chromium pollution in California, was a smash hit. It would be nice if the horrors of pollution she (and Karen Silkwood and many others) uncovered were all in the past, but, tragically, our world is becoming more, not less, dangerously polluted. As a consumer advocate, Erin Brockovich is still working to protect the public from toxins greedy companies would much rather ignore than investigate.

Clean Water Should Be a Right

More and more Americans are becoming aware that the clean water we used to take for granted may no longer be safe to drink. Filtered and bottled water have become the norm for a vast number of people who suspect (or know) that industrial chemicals are present in their water supplies. While the country has recently fixated on the horrible reality of lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan, the residents of many other places in the nation, and worldwide, are also in grave danger. 

Right Here in New York

Hoosick Falls, a village in upstate New York, is another example of a region in jeopardy because of water contamination. Again, Erin Brockovich is spreading the awful news and helping to focus public resources on pinpointing and fixing the problem.

In Hoosick Falls, the water is not poisoned with lead, but with Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, a key ingredient in the manufacture of Teflon and hundreds of other products. Not only does PFOA pollute the blood of almost all U.S. residents, it can contaminate a fetus still in the womb. This highly toxic chemical has been shown to cause cancer, reproductive disorders and other serious illnesses.

Who blew the whistle?

It might be at least a bit reassuring if the blight on the water of Hoosick Falls had been brought to light by routine government monitoring. Instead, it was revealed by tests paid for by Michael Hickey, a private resident who became worried about the unusually large number of cancer cases in the village, where his father died of kidney cancer in 2013.

Hickey's tests detected PFOA at well above the health advisory of the EPA. As is typical in such cases, local and state authorities tried to belittle concerns, but Hickey pressed on. Eventually, the EPA warned residents not to drink or cook with the local water. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, the plant where Michael Hickey’s father worked for 32 years, and which used PFOA to manufacture heat-resistant wiring, is now providing bottled water for residents and paying for a filtration system.

Toxic Torts

In this case, as in so many other cases of this type, help comes too little, too late. Lawsuits claiming personal injury from exposure to toxic substances will undoubtedly be filed in the community of Hoosick Falls, as they have been, and continue to be, filed in other parts of the country.

Such lawsuits, known as toxic torts, require skilled representation by attorneys who specialize in the field. If you suspect that you or a family member has been exposed to a toxic substance either at home or at the workplace, you should contact a knowledgeable lawyer as quickly as possible.

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