Archived Posts from this Category

Case Filed for Boy Diagnosed with Leukemia

Posted by on 17 Nov 2011 | Tagged as: cancer, litigation, toxic torts

On November 15, 2011 the family of a child cancer patient filed a lawsuit against BP, Chevron, and other owners and operators of a bulk petroleum transport and storage facility near the boy’s home.

The plaintiff, who was born and raised within a half-mile radius of the facility, was diagnosed at age four with a specific type of childhood leukemia associated with benzene exposure.  Unbeknownst to the child’s family, the defendants had engaged in documented and illegal disposal methods of toxic chemicals, including benzene, for years.  The improper and hazardous activities included dumping toxic waste on the ground near the child’s house and contamination of a drinking water well which the child’s family used.

The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, names some of the world’s largest oil companies, including BP, Chevron, Unocal, Transmontaigne Product Services, Gulf Oil, Louis Dreyfus Highbridge Energy, LLC, Colonial Pipeline, and Plantation Pipe Line.

The family is represented by Chris Nidel of Nidel Law, PLLC in Washington, D.C., and Matt Harman of Harman Law LLC in Atlanta, Georgia.

Koppers Plant in Roanoke Smells Like Teen Spirit (but only at night)

Posted by on 14 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: cancer, environmental law, toxic torts

Over the last few years, I have spent a lot of the time on the road, including driving from Washington, D.C. to Dallas, TX and back.  Not being one for traffic or being ready to leave on time, I typically end up driving through the night.  This combination has put me on Interstate 81 in the Roanoke, Virginia area, typically late at night.

The first time through this area I noticed a fairly strong mothball odor.  I rolled down my windows and took several deep breaths.  Next time I was at a computer, I searched for any industrial sources near that stretch of highway.  I found one source that seemed to fit the bill, Koppers, Inc. in Salem, Virginia.  This seemed like a fairly likely source for the mothball odor.  My hunch seemed all-but-confirmed when I looked at the toxic release inventory for the site, which indicates over 5000 pounds of creosote air emissions as well as a few reported pounds of PAHs.

I noticed this same smell on several more trips through this area.  I also spoke to a local environmental group and asked whether anyone there had notice any odor or mothball odors near Salem or associated with the Koppers facility there.  Despite my experience, they were not aware of any reports of odors.  

So, on a recent trip down to North Carolina, I decided to get off I-81 and check out the Koppers facility and surrounding area for odors.  This time, it was the middle of the afternoon, and this time, there were no odors, not even when I went up to the fence line of the facility.  Nothing at all.  Needless to say, this surprised me.  So when I returned form North Carolina, I made sure to drive through at night.  Before I was off the highway, the odor was there.  As I drove through Salem, the smell thickened, and when I pulled up to the Koppers plant, the air was thick with a mothball fog.

I am not sure whether this bothers or concerns the neighbors.  But there are certainly people living near the facility, and some living directly adjacent.  Perhaps there are multiple lessons that this investigation provides, but the one that I want to highlight is that the it strongly appears that emissions from this facility are dependent on the time of day.  As the operators said at the chemical plant I worked at, “we only do that on graveyard.”  Perhaps this facility is poisoning its neighbors, but they will never know it, unless they get hungry for a midnight snack!

Here are the photos that I took that night of the plant.  Despite the poor conditions, I think that these photos still are worth a thousand words.


Alcohol in mouthwash shown causing oral cancers

Posted by on 01 Feb 2009 | Tagged as: cancer, litigation, product liability, toxic torts, toxicology

Dental researchers in Australia, M.J. McCullough and C.S. Farah, recently published a review of the data on mouthwash use and the risk of oral cancer.  The researchers reviewed the epidemiological evidence and the proposed mechanism of carcinogenicity of mouthwash and concluded that there is now sufficient evidence that regular use of alcohol containing mouthwashes contributes to the risk of oral cancer.  The research suggests that the risk is the result of the metabolic conversion of ethanol to acetaldehyde, a mutagenic and carcinogenic compound.  Several Listerine branded mouthwashes topped the researcher’s list due to the high level of alcohol (ethanol) contained in these products, as high as 26 percent.  The newly established connection between oral cancer and regular mouthwash use raises the potential for legal claims against mouthwash manufacturers for personal injuries and deceptive or fraudulent marketing.  The abstract is included below.  

The role of alcohol in oral carcinogenesis with particular reference to alcohol-containing mouthwashes 

MJ McCullough,* CS Farah  

Worldwide, oral cancer represents approximately 5 per cent of all malignant lesions, with over 800 new intra-oral squamous cell carcinomas registered in Australia each year. Despite recent advances in therapy, the five-year survival rate remains around 50 per cent and the sequelae of treatment can be seriously debilitating. It has been long established that smoking and alcohol consumption are risk factors linked to the development of oral cancer. This review assesses the epidemiological evidence, supportive in vitro studies and mechanism by which alcohol is involved in the development of oral cancer. Further, we review the literature that associates alcohol-containing mouthwashes and oral cancer. On the basis of this review, we believe that there is now sufficient evidence to accept the proposition that alcohol-containing mouthwashes contribute to the increased risk of development of oral cancer and further feel that it is inadvisable for oral healthcare professionals to recommend the long-term use of alcohol-containing mouthwashes.