Birth Defects from Plastics

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Massachusetts birth defect lawyers holding plastics manufacturers accountable

Plastics is one of the largest manufacturing industries in the U.S., accounting for more than $400 billion in goods, employing 1 million American workers, and with around 18,500 manufacturing facilities covering every state [1]. Plastics manufacturing employment has grown in the U.S. from 1980 to 2015, in contrast to manufacturing as a whole.

The plastics manufacturing process is known to involve many kinds of toxic chemicals and solvents that cause cancer and birth defects (teratogens). These include but are not limited to aliphatic hydrocarbons, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), chlorinated solvents, dioxins, metals, oxygenated solvents, phthalates, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Specific chemicals include bisphenol-A (BPA), di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), dichlorethane, butane, toluene, butoxyethanol, propene, 2-propenoic acid, ethanol, acetone, phthalates, benzene, Methyl ethyl ketone, propanoic acid, and vinyl chloride [2].

Research shows that exposure to many of these chemicals and solvents can lead to serious long-term birth defects. Exposure is at its highest and most dangerous for workers involved directly in the manufacturing process, particularly pregnant mothers for whom the permeable placental barrier allows for the passage of harmful chemicals from mother to fetus. One study of 1,535 women employed at plastics companies found that those working in the most highly exposed jobs had children with lower birth weight [3]. Today, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, women make up 28% of employees in the plastics manufacturing industry.

While workplace exposure is typically strongest, environmental exposure to the toxic byproducts of plastics manufacturing also exists in areas of the U.S. with heavy manufacturing. Research has found “severe contamination of communities and waterways in the vicinity of VCM [vinyl chloride] production facilities…. In Louisiana, significantly elevated levels of dioxins have been found in the blood of people living near a VCM facility, several communities have been evacuated due to VCM contamination of groundwater, and extremely high levels of highly persistent, bioaccumulative byproducts attributable to VCM production have been found in local waterways” [4].

In some of these locations, residents are fighting back against plastics manufacturing as a public health and environmental crisis and as an example of environmental racism [5]. But companies won’t back down; more is needed to correct for the harmful effects of exposure to the toxic and teratogenic chemicals involved in the manufacturing of plastics.

This is an expansion of our existing practice of representing workers in manufacturing who are exposed to chemicals capable of causing birth defects. For years we have litigated complex workplace exposure cases, working with leading experts in the fields of public health, industrial hygiene, exposure assessment, and epidemiology. We have recovered significant multi-million dollar settlements on behalf birth defect victims and their families, allowing them to receive compensation and proper care for the rest of their lives.

 

Sources

 

[1] American Electric Power. (n.d.). Plastics Industry Thrives in U.S. and AEP States. Retrieved October 19, 2020 from https://aeped.com/plastics-industry-thrives-in-u-s-and-aep-states/.

 

[2] Halden, R. “Plastics and Health Risks.” Annual Review of Public Health. Vol. 31:179-194 (Volume publication date 21 April 2010). Retrieved October 19, 2020 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20070188/.

 

[3] Lemasters, G. “Reproductive outcomes of pregnant workers employed at 36 reinforced plastics companies. Lowered birth weight.” Journal of Occupational Medicine. February 1989. Retrieved October 20, 2020 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2709161/.

 

[4] Thornton, J. “Environmental Impacts of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Building Materials.” 2002. Retrieved October 19, 2020 from https://s3.amazonaws.com/hbnweb.prod/uploads/files/environmental-impacts-of-polyvinyl-chloride-building-materials.pdf.

 

[5] Baurick, T, et al. “Welcome to ‘Cancer Alley,’ Where Toxic Air Is About to Get Worse.” ProPublica. October 30, 2019. Retrieved October 19, 2020 from https://www.propublica.org/article/welcome-to-cancer-alley-where-toxic-air-is-about-to-get-worse.

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