What exactly is a toxic substance? How do toxic substances harm the human body?
One of the problems with toxic substances is that people don't always recognize that a substance is toxic until after they have already been exposed to something for a significant period of time. For example, mercury is a toxic substance that used to be used in medications -- back when nobody recognized how toxic it was to humans. Similarly, lead was mixed with paint and used all over homes and apartments for decades. Asbestos was wrapped around hot water pipes and used for insulation in everything from private residences to public buildings.
Unfortunately for a lot of people, the realization that they've been exposed to a toxic substance only comes after they've been diagnosed with a debilitating or deadly disease -- which is often irreversible in nature.
When an attorney tackles a so-called "toxic tort," he or she usually has to work backwards from the point where the diagnosis is made and look at what type of exposure to known toxic substances someone has experienced over his or her lifetime.
An attorney will look at a number of issues in order to draw a connection between the present illness and the past exposure:
-- The known effect of a certain chemical. For example, exposure to lead is known to affect the neurological and intellectual development of children in adverse ways.
-- A chemical's potency. Some chemicals require only a brief exposure to cause toxic results in a human, while others aren't toxic unless there is repeated, long-term exposure. For example, someone who is briefly exposed to paint thinner may have no lasting ill effects, but someone who exposed to it on a regular basis could become quite sick.
-- The route of exposure. In order to win any lawsuit regarding toxic exposure, it's necessary to show how the victim came into contact with the toxic substance. Did he or she handle it? Was it breathed in? Was it something that got on the victim's skin?
-- The length of exposure. It's important to show that the victim was exposed to the toxic substance long enough to cause the problems that he or she has.
Toxic torts based on chemical exposure are a complicated area of law. If you'd like more information on how we handle these sort of claims, please visit our web pages on the topic.