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October 2009 Raytheon Class Action Lawsuit Update

Raytheon Class Action Lawsuit Attorney

Raytheon case certified as class action lawsuit. Read the actual court order here.

Click here to view the Raytheon class action lawsuit area map.

On September 30, 2009, United States District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington entered an order in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida certifying a class action lawsuit for the residents of the Azalea neighborhood in St. Petersburg, Florida. The week before the ruling Judge Hernandez Covington heard three days of testimony and evidence in court from residents of the neighborhood as well as experts from both sides.

This court order allows the residents to proceed as a class to seek damages against Raytheon Corporation for the loss of their property value as a result of a toxic plume of chemicals in the groundwater under their neighborhood. The underground plume of toxic industrial chemicals in the Azalea neighborhood of St. Petersburg is larger than previously thought. That’s according to an environmental expert hired by attorneys for the Azalea residents.

Dr. Philip Bedient, Rice University chair of the school’s Environmental Science and Engineering Department, was hired by attorneys for the concerned residents in order to assess the environmental impact of the plume of toxic chemicals and the scope of the plume itself. Judge Hernandez Covington noted in her ruling that Dr. Bedient’s scholarly credentials were “impeccable”. Dr. Bedient found that the plume is 1 mile long by 1.7 miles wide. Dr. Bedient also concluded that, “"The results from 2008 clearly show that the plume is continuing to expand and it is clearly not being controlled. …in other words, the experimental remediation schemes have been a dismal failure to date at this site."

The Rice University professor attributes the discrepancies in the reports to different testing methods. Previous testing performed by a contractor for Raytheon showed a much smaller plume area.

The class area includes over 1,000 homes in the Azalea and surrounding neighborhoods. This class action does not include claims for injuries or diseases from exposure to the toxic chemicals. No one has been able to rule out adverse health consequences from exposure to the toxic chemicals in the ground water plume. However, the epidemiological science has not been established to prove to the level required in court that there is specific causation to any particular person’s injury in the opinion of the attorneys for the neighborhood. Therefore claims for adverse health consequences are not included in this class action. Neighborhood residents are free to bring those claims on their own independently of this class action for loss of property value. Neighborhood residents who believe they may have health or injury claims should hire other counsel to bring those claims and should do so promptly as there are statutes of limitations that may bar those claims if not prosecuted in a timely manner.

The next step in the class action lawsuit is a Notice procedure in which each property owner in the class will receive an official written notice that they are a class member. This Notice will give them a date by which they must “opt out” if they do not wish to participate in the class or if they wish to bring their own separate lawsuit. If an owner does not “opt out”: they will automatically be a member of the class. It is not necessary for residents to sign up or join the class to be included. If a property is within the class map approved by the Judge the owner is a member of the class.

Raytheon Class Action Lawsuit December 2008 Update:

Water ground contamination experts working with the neighborhood attorneys team recommended and supervised extensive drilling in the Azalea neighborhood over the last two weeks in November 2008. This drilling of temporary test wells was to further define the locations of the toxic plume of ground water under the neighborhood. The neighborhood attorney team did not want to rely on the testing done by Arcadis at the direction of the Defendant Raytheon.

The Florida Department of Environmental Regulation has finally approved a proposed plan by Raytheon to pump and treat the ground water. That pump and treat project was begun in November of 2008.

The Florida Department of Health performed vapor intrusion testing at the Brandywine Apartment Complex in September and October of 2008. The Health Department employees had an informational meeting at the Brandywine Apartment Clubhouse on November 25, 2008 that was attended by neighborhood attorney team member Joseph H. Saunders. The Department of Health testing was inconclusive and the Department cited lack of funds as a reason for limiting the testing that they were able to do.

The neighborhood attorney team is in the process of reviewing and analyzing thousand of documents produced by Raytheon in the discovery process in the lawsuit. This will help us understand what Raytheon knew and when they knew it.

The hearing on whether the court will certify the lawsuit as a class action and if so how much of the neighborhood will be included will take place in the spring of 2009.

 

September 2008 Raytheon Class Action Lawsuit Update

On Monday August 18, 2008 the first federal court hearing in the Raytheon ground water contamination case was held by  Federal Magistrate Thomas Wilson. Detailed recommendations for scheduling of the case were made by Magistrate Wilson that were incorporated into an Order issued by U.S. District Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington on September 10, 2008. The Order has a time line for disclosure of witnesses, documents, and experts. It includes hearings on different aspects of this very complex case. In summary, the case will be ready for the hearing on Class Certification by the end of March 2009. The case is scheduled for mediation to discuss settlement in January 2010 and the trial is set for March 2011.

One of the many areas of disagreement between the Neighborhood Attorneys Group and the Raytheon Attorneys was production of Raytheon and E Solutions company documents that go back many years. The Raytheon Attorneys argued that they should only have to produce documents and witnesses relating to issues relevant to class certification but not as to liability and other issues in the case. The Neighborhood Attorneys Group successfully argued that Raytheon should have to produce everything related to all aspects for the case. We were very pleased that the Magistrate agreed with our position and ruled in our favor.

We are now entering what is called the discovery phase of the case where we are entitled to get documents from Raytheon and take the depositions of Raytheon employees under oath. This is a very labor intensive and time consuming process that will take several years. We expect that Raytheon has hundreds of thousands of documents extending back into the 1950s relating to the contamination and the business practices that were followed at the Azalea site. Both sides will also have many expert witnesses on science and real estate valuation that must give depositions before trial.

Click Here For Judge Covington Scheduling Order PDF File

Raytheon has recently submitted two reports to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  Both of these reports are available to community members by clicking on the “reports quick link” at:

http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southwest/Raytheon/default.htm

After testing more groundwater wells in the Azalea neighborhood of St. Petersburg, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has announced that six more wells are contaminated with all or either of 1,4-dioxane, TCE and vinyl chloride, all considered hazardous to humans. The new wells also shows that the toxic plume which originated from the Raytheon plant site located at 1501 72nd St. North in St. Petersburg is growing and is at the very edge of Azalea Elementary School.Raytheon Class Action Lawsuit St Petersburg Florida Lawyer

While Raytheon officials as well as those from the DEP say there is no danger to humans because the water is not used for drinking, local toxicology experts are not so certain and that’s why air quality tests are also being conducted in the area of the plume. This is a particularly distressing problem for Azalea elementary school officials, parents, and most especially the children who’ve attended the school for the past 15 years. Pinellas County school officials have decided to test the air in the school at a cost of $15,000 and an expert has been hired from the University of South Florida. The expert will give his report on his test results this Monday at the school.

Neither the state Department of Environmental Protection nor the plant, Raytheon Network Centric Systems, alerted homeowners to the south before April of this year-- even though they knew for three years that the plume is migrating that way. Obviously, parents of children attending the school were never notified.

According to the experts, such toxins as were allowed to spill into the groundwater from the Raytheon plant can enter the human body in two ways: 1)drinking the contaminated water (this doesn’t seem likely since the wells are used for irrigation purposes. However, pets and children playing in the sprinklers could have come in contact with the contaminated water.)
2)The toxins can also enter the human body as they evaporate, enter the air we breathe. This means it’s possible for the toxins to have entered homes and buildings in the area affected by the toxic plume.

Inhalation of low levels of vinyl chloride, one of the toxins in the Raytheon toxic spill, can cause eye and nose irritation. High level exposure can cause kidney and/or liver damage and can cause death.

Contact with trichloroethylene can cause skin irritation as well as headaches, dizziness, lung irritation, poor coordination, and difficulty concentrating. Inhalation of the toxin can impair heart function, unconsciousness, and death.

Skin contact with I-4 dioxane can cause redness, numbness, and blisters. However, high levels of exposure can cause more serious problems such as blood flow problems. Breathing the fumes over years can also cause liver changes.

The area affected by the Raytheon toxic plume now extends from as far south as Fifth Avenue, 10 blocks from the Raytheon plant, and as far west as 76th Avenue, about four blocks from the plant

 

March 2008

Joe Saunders will meet with concerned Azalea residents this evening ( March 8th 2008 ) to discuss the groundwater contamination by Raytheon. The meeting will be held at Azalea Baptist Church, 7900 22nd Ave. North, St. Petersburg beginning at 7:30pm. Attorney Saunders will discuss the class action lawsuit against Raytheon as well as the status of the contamination investigation. Residents first learned of the problem after media reports discovered unacceptable levels of 1,4-dioxane, trichloroethylene, and vinyl chloride in the neighborhood groundwater. While Raytheon and the DEP continue to state there are no evidence of health issues related to the toxic plume, other experts have cautioned that it may be too early to make that determination. The toxic plume has caused a diminution of property values in the neighborhood. At least three real estate closings have failed as a result of the plume.

 

Raytheon Toxic Waste Plume Class Action Water Pollution And Contamination Lawsuit St Petersburg Florida Toxic Waste Lawyer Chemical Attorney Irrigation Well

 

Click here to download and view Raytheon class action complaint filing.

Azalea Water Contamination Class Action Lawsuit Pollution Information

(800)748-7115 Click Here For Prompt Contact And Case Information

St Petersburg Raytheon Attorney The toxic contaminants vinyl chloride, trichloroethylene, and 1, 4-dioxane were found after a news report by WFLA News Channel 8 and the Tampa Tribune in April of 2008.

Raytheon, a large defense contractor, has been linked to the chemical contaminants which began seeping into the Azalea neighborhood of St. Petersburg three years ago.  Raytheon has stated that the plume poses no risk to residents.  However, the potential health consequences to residents have yet to be determined as all three toxins in question are deemed as human carcinogens by the EPA. In addition, there are concerns about the diminution of property values.

According to the media reports residents were not notified of the hazardous plume even though a number of residents have irrigation wells that experts say are at risk of contamination by the tainted groundwater.

By definition, groundwater is water found underground that has seeped through sand, rock, and soil. Groundwater is stored in aquifers- underground layers of water-bearing permeable rock or unconsolidated materials (gravel, sand, silt, or clay).  Aquifers are permeable because they have large connected spaces that allow water to flow through them.

The area filled with the water is called the saturated zone.  The top of this saturated zone is what is known as the water table.  The water table may sit a foot below the surface of the soil or it may be hundreds of feet beneath the surface.  If the surface above the table is permeable, contaminants or toxins can seep into the water table rendering the water unfit for human consumption.  Pollutants can come from various sources including landfills, septic tanks, leaky underground gas tanks, and from overuse of fertilizers and pesticides.  However, chemicals from manufacturing plants can also seep into the groundwater and contaminate it. 

raytheon ground water lawsuitSome liquid hazardous substances do not mix with the groundwater but remain pooled within the soil or bedrock. These pooled substances can act as long-term sources of groundwater contamination as the groundwater flows through the soil or rock and comes into contact with them.

 

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Ask Attorney Joseph Saunders For More Information

 

What is 1,4 dioxane?

Clear liquid with faint odor

1,4-Dioxane is a clear liquid with a faint pleasant odor and mixes easily with water.

Used as a solvent and laboratory reagent

It is used as a solvent in the manufacture of other chemicals and as a laboratory reagent.

Found as a contaminant

1,4-Dioxane is a trace contaminant of some chemicals used in cosmetics, detergents, and shampoos.

Manufacturers now reduce 1,4-dioxane from these chemicals to low levels before these chemicals are made into products used in the home.

 

What happens to 1,4 dioxane when it enters the environment?

Found in air and water

1,4-Dioxane can be released into the air, water, and soil at places where it is produced or used as a solvent.

In soil, 1,4-dioxane does not stick to soil particles, so it can move from soil into groundwater.

Breakdown

Compounds in the air can rapidly breakdown 1,4-dioxane into different compounds.

1,4-Dioxane is stable in water and does not break down.

 

How might I be exposed to 1,4 dioxane?

Air

You can be exposed to 1,4-dioxane by breathing contaminated air.

Current levels of 1,4-dioxane in air are not known. In the mid-1980s, levels of 1,4-dioxane were

  • 0.1–0.4 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3) in outdoor air
  • 4 mg/m3 for indoor air

Water

You can be exposed to 1,4-dioxane in tap water.

Current levels of 1,4-dioxane in water are not known. In the 1970s, the level of 1,4-dioxane in drinking water was 1 microgram per liter of water (1 μg/L).

Tap water can contain 1,4-dioxane, so you also can be exposed to 1,4-dioxane during activities such as showering, bathing, and laundering. Exposure to 1,4-dioxane in tap water by breathing in during showering or other indoor activities can result in higher exposures to 1,4-dioxane than from drinking water.

How can 1,4 dioxane enter and leave my body?

Rapidly enters your body

When you breathe air containing 1,4-dioxane, almost all of it will rapidly enter your body through your lungs. Almost all of the 1,4-dioxane in your drinking water will rapidly enter your body through the digestive tract.

Smaller amounts of 1,4-dioxane can enter your body through the skin.

Rapidly leaves your body

Once in your body, 1,4-dioxane is broken down into other chemicals. These other chemicals rapidly leave your body in the urine.

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How can 1,4 dioxane affect my health?

Scientists use many tests to protect the public from harmful effects of toxic chemicals and to find ways for treating persons who have been harmed.

The effects of 1,4-dioxane on human health depends on how much 1,4-dioxane you are exposed to and the length of exposure. The limited environmental monitoring data available suggest that the levels of 1,4-dioxane to which the general public might be exposed through contact or use of consumer products (including food), or that are normally found in environmental media, are generally significantly lower than those used in studies with experimental animals.

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Short-term exposure effects

Eye and nose irritation was reported by people exposed to low levels of 1,4-dioxane for short periods of time. Exposure to very high levels may cause severe kidney and liver effects and possibly death.

Long-term exposure effects

Studies in animals have shown that breathing vapors of 1,4-dioxane, swallowing liquid 1,4-dioxane or contaminated drinking water, or having skin contact with liquid 1,4-dioxane affects mainly the liver and kidneys.

May cause cancer

Studies in workers did not indicate whether 1,4-dioxane causes cancer.

Laboratory rats and mice that drank water containing 1,4-dioxane during most of their lives developed liver cancer; the rats also developed cancer inside the nose. Scientists are debating the degree to which the findings in rats and mice apply to exposure situations commonly encountered by people.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that 1,4-dioxane is possibly carcinogenic to humans.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) considers 1,4-dioxane as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.

EPA has established that 1,4-dioxane is a probable human carcinogen.

How can 1,4 dioxane affect children?

This section discusses potential health effects in humans from exposures during the period from conception to maturity at 18 years of age.

Children are likely to have similar effects as adults

No data describe the effects of exposure to 1,4-dioxane on children or immature animals. It is likely that children would show the same health effects as adults. We do not know whether children differ from adults in their susceptibility to the effects of 1,4-dioxane.

Birth defects

We do not know whether 1,4-dioxane can harm an unborn child.

How can families reduce the risk of exposure to 1,4 dioxane?

Limit children’s exposure to consumer products which may contain 1,4-dioxane

1,4-Dioxane may be a contaminant in cosmetics, detergents, and shampoos that contain the following ingredients (which may be listed on the product label):

  • PEG
  • polyethylene
  • polyethylene glycol
  • polyoxyethylene
  • -eth
  • -oxynol

Many products on the market today contain 1,4-dioxane in very small amounts. However, some cosmetics, detergents, and shampoos may contain 1,4-dioxane at levels higher than recommended by the FDA for other products. Families wishing to avoid cosmetics containing the ingredients listed above may do so by reviewing the ingredient statement that is required to appear on the outer container label of cosmetics offered for retail sale. Also, families may look for cautionary statements on the labels of foaming detergent bath products with directions for safe use, the need to keep out of the reach of children, or the need for adult supervision.

Limit exposure to contaminated drinking water

Families that drink water that could be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane can reduce the risk for exposure to 1,4-dioxane by drinking uncontaminated bottled water.

 

Is there a medical test to determine whether I have been exposed to 1,4 dioxane?

Can be measured in blood and urine

1,4-Dioxane and its breakdown products (metabolites) can be measured in blood and urine.

The detection of 1,4-dioxane or these metabolites cannot be used to predict the kind of health effects that might develop from that exposure.

The tests need to be conducted within days after exposure because 1,4-dioxane and its metabolites leave the body fairly rapidly.

 

What recommendations has the federal government made to protect human health?

The federal government develops regulations and recommendations to protect public health. Regulations can be enforced by law. The EPA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are some federal agencies that develop regulations for toxic substances. Recommendations provide valuable guidelines to protect public health, but cannot be enforced by law. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are two federal organizations that develop recommendations for toxic substances.

Regulations and recommendations can be expressed as “not-to-exceed” levels, that is, levels of a toxic substance in air, water, soil, or food that do not exceed a critical value that is usually based on levels that affect animals; they are then adjusted to levels that will help protect humans. Sometimes these not-toexceed levels differ among federal organizations because they used different exposure times (an 8-hour workday or a 24-hour day), different animal studies, or other factors.

Recommendations and regulations are also updated periodically as more information becomes available. For the most current information, check with the federal agency or organization that provides it.

Some regulations and recommendations for 1,4-dioxane include the following:

Levels in drinking water set by EPA

The EPA has determined that exposure to 1,4-dioxane in drinking water at concentrations of 4 mg/L for one day or 0.4 mg/L for 10 days is not expected to cause any adverse effects in a child.

Levels in workplace air set by OSHA

OSHA set a legal limit of 100 ppm 1,4-dioxane in air averaged over an 8-hour work day.

Levels set by NAS

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) established a specification of 10 ppm for 1,4-dioxane in the ingredient polysorbate, a food additive.

Levels set by FDA

Levels set by FDA FDA considered 10 ppm to be an acceptable limit for 1,4-dioxane during its consideration of a spermicide, N-9, in a contraceptive sponge product.

FDA also set a limit on 1,4-dioxane at 10 ppm in approving glycerides and polyglycerides for use as excipients in products such as dietary
supplements.

FDA keeps a record of raw materials and products contaminated with 1,4-dioxane.

 

If you are exposed to trichloroethylene, many factors will determine whether you'll be harmed. These factors include the dose (how much), the duration (how long), and how you come in contact with it. You must also consider the other chemicals you're exposed to and your age, sex, diet, family traits, lifestyle, and state of health.

 

What is trichloroethylene?

Trichloroethylene is also known as Triclene and Vitran and by other trade names in industry. It is a nonflammable, colorless liquid at room temperature with a somewhat sweet odor and a sweet, burning taste. Trichloroethylene is now mainly used as a solvent to remove grease from metal parts. It is also used as a solvent in other ways and is used to make other chemicals. Trichloroethylene can also be found in some household products, including typewriter correction fluid, paint removers, adhesives, and spot removers. Most people can begin to smell trichloroethylene in air when there are around 100 parts of trichloroethylene per million parts of air (ppm

What happens to trichloroethylene when it enters the environment?

By far, the biggest source of trichloroethylene in the environment is evaporation from factories that use it to remove grease from metals. It can also enter the air and water when it is disposed of at chemical waste sites. It evaporates easily but can stay in the soil and in groundwater. Once it is in the air, about half will be broken down within a week. When trichloroethylene is broken down in the air, phosgene, a lung irritant, can be formed. Trichloroethylene can break down under high heat and alkaline conditions to form dichloroacetylene and phosgene. In the body, trichloroethylene may break down into dichloroacetic acid (DCA), trichloroacetic acid (TCA), chloral hydrate, and 2-chloroacetaldehyde. These products have been shown to be toxic to animals and are probably toxic to humans. Once trichloroethylene is in water, much will evaporate into the air; again, about half will break down within a week. It will take days to weeks to break down in surface water. In groundwater the breakdown is much slower because of the much slower evaporation rate. Very little trichloroethylene breaks down in the soil, and it can pass through the soil into underground water. It is found in some foods. The trichloroethylene found in foods is believed to come from contamination of the water used in food processing, or from food processing equipment cleaned with trichloroethylene. It does not build up in fish, but low levels have been found in them.

How might I be exposed to trichloroethylene?

Trichloroethylene is found in the outdoor air at levels far less than 1 ppm. When measured several years ago, some of the water supplies in the United States were found to have trichloroethylene. The most recent monitoring study found average levels in surface water ranging from 0.0001 to 0.001 ppm of water and an average level of 0.007 ppm in groundwater. About 400,000 workers are routinely exposed to trichloroethylene in the United States. The chemical can also get into the air or water in many ways, for example, at waste treatment facilities; by evaporation from paints, glues, and other products; or by release from factories where it is made. Another way you may be exposed is by breathing the air around factories that use the chemical. People living near hazardous waste sites may be exposed to it in the air or in their drinking water, or in the water used for bathing or cooking. Products that may contain trichloroethylene are some types of typewriter correction fluids, paints and paint removers, glues, spot removers, rug cleaning fluids, and metal cleaners.

How can trichloroethylene enter and leave my body?

Trichloroethylene enters your body when you breathe air or drink water containing it. It can also enter your body if you get it on your skin. You could be exposed to contaminated water or air if you live near or work in a factory that uses trichloroethylene or if you live near a waste disposal site that contains trichloroethylene. If you breathe the chemical, about half the amount you breathe in will get into your bloodstream and organs. You will exhale the rest. If you drink trichloroethylene, most of it will be absorbed into your blood. If trichloroethylene comes in contact with your skin, some of it can enter your body, although not as easily as when you breathe or swallow it.
Once in your blood, your liver changes much of the trichloroethylene into other chemicals. The majority of these breakdown products leave your body in the urine within a day. You will also quickly breathe out much of the trichloroethylene that is in your bloodstream. Some of the trichloroethylene or its breakdown products can be stored in body fat for a brief period, and thus may build up in your body if exposure continues.

How can trichloroethylene affect my health?

To protect the public from the harmful effects of toxic chemicals and to find ways to treat people who have been harmed, scientists use many tests.
One way to see if a chemical will hurt people is to learn how the chemical is absorbed, used, and released by the body; for some chemicals, animal testing may be necessary. Animal testing may also be used to identify health effects such as cancer or birth defects. Without laboratory animals, scientists would lose a basic method to get information needed to make wise decisions to protect public health. Scientists have the responsibility to treat research animals with care and compassion. Laws today protect the welfare of research animals, and scientists must comply with strict animal care guidelines.
Trichloroethylene was once used as an anesthetic for surgery. People who are exposed to large amounts of trichloroethylene can become dizzy or sleepy and may become unconscious at very high levels. Death may occur from inhalation of large amounts. Many people have jobs where they work with trichloroethylene and can breathe it or get it on their skin. Some people who get concentrated solutions of trichloroethylene on their skin develop rashes. People who breathe moderate levels of trichloroethylene may have headaches or dizziness. It is possible that some people who breathe high levels of trichloroethylene may develop damage to some of the nerves in the face. People have reported health effects when exposed to the level of trichloroethylene at which its odor is noticeable. Effects have also occurred at much higher levels. The effects reported at high levels include liver and kidney damage and changes in heart beat. The levels at which these effects occur in humans are not well characterized. Animals that were exposed to moderate levels of trichloroethylene had enlarged livers, and high-level exposure caused liver and kidney damage.
It is uncertain whether people who breathe air or drink water containing trichloroethylene are at higher risk of cancer, or of having reproductive effects. More and more studies suggest that more birth defects may occur when mothers drink water containing trichloroethylene. People who used water for several years from two wells that had high levels of trichloroethylene may have had a higher incidence of childhood leukemia than other people, but these findings are not conclusive. In another study of trichloroethylene exposure from well water, increased numbers of children were reported to be born with heart defects, which is supported by data from some animal studies showing developmental effects of trichloroethylene on the heart. However, other chemicals were also in the water from this well and may have contributed to these effects.One study reported a higher number of children with a rare defect in the respiratory system and eye defects. Another study reported that the risk for neural tube defects and oral cleft palates were higher among mothers with trichloroethylene in their water during pregnancy. Children listed in the National Exposure Subregistry of persons exposed to trichloroethylene were reported to have higher rates of hearing and speech impairment. There are many questions regarding these reports. There were small numbers of children with defects and trichloroethylene levels at which the effects occurred were not defined well. Thus, it is not possible to make firm conclusions about the exact effects of trichloroethylene from these studies, and more studies need to be done.

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We do not have any clear evidence that trichloroethylene alone in drinking water can cause leukemia or any other type of cancer in humans. As part of the National Exposure Subregistry, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) compiled data on 4,280 residents of three states (Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana) who had environmental exposure to trichloroethylene. It found no definitive evidence for an excess of cancers from trichloroethylene exposure. An increase of respiratory cancer was noted in older men, but this effect was thought to result from smoking rather than trichloroethylene exposure. A study in New Jersey found an association between leukemia in women and exposure to trichloroethylene in the drinking water. A study in Massachusetts found that exposure was associated with leukemia in children.In studies with people, there are many factors that are not fully understood. More studies need to be done to establish the relationship between exposure to trichloroethylene and cancer.
In studies using high doses of trichloroethylene in rats and mice, tumors in the lungs, liver, and testes were found, providing some evidence that high doses of trichloroethylene can cause cancer in experimental animals. Based on the limited data in humans regarding trichloroethylene exposure and cancer, and evidence that high doses of trichloroethylene can cause cancer in animals, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that trichloroethylene is probably carcinogenic to humans. Trichloroethylene has been nominated for listing in the National Toxicology Program (NTP) 9th Report on Carcinogens. Evaluation of this substance by the NTP review committee is ongoing.

Is there a medical test to determine whether I have been exposed to trichloroethylene?

There are some tests that can show if you have been recently exposed to trichloroethylene since this chemical can be measured in your breath. Also, a doctor can have trichloroethylene or a number of breakdown products of trichloroethylene measured in your urine or blood. None of these tests, however, is routinely available at your doctor's office. If the measurements are done soon after the exposure, the breath levels can indicate whether you have been exposed to a large amount of trichloroethylene or only a small amount. Urine and blood tests can also show if you have been exposed to large amounts of this chemical. Because one of the breakdown products leaves your body very slowly, it can be measured in the urine for up to about 1 week after trichloroethylene exposure. However, exposure to other similar chemicals can produce the same breakdown products in your urine and blood. Therefore, these methods cannot determine for sure whether you have been exposed to trichloroethylene

What is vinyl chloride?

Vinyl chloride is known also as chloroethene, chloroethylene, ethylene monochloride, or monochloroethylene. At room temperature, it is a colorless gas, it burns easily, and it is not stable at high temperatures. Vinyl chloride exists in liquid form if kept under high pressure or at low temperatures. Vinyl chloride has a mild, sweet odor, which may become noticeable at 3,000 parts vinyl chloride per million parts (ppm) of air. However, the odor is of little value in preventing excess exposure. Most people begin to taste vinyl chloride in water at 3.4 ppm.
Vinyl chloride is a manufactured substance that does not occur naturally; however, it can be formed in the environment when other manufactured substances, such as trichloroethylene, trichloroethane, and tetrachloroethylene, are broken down by certain microorganisms. Production of vinyl chloride in the United States grew at an average rate of about 7% from the early 1980s to the early 1990s, with current growth at about 3% annually. Most of the vinyl chloride produced in the United States is used to make a polymer called polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which consists of long repeating units of vinyl chloride. PVC is used to make a variety of plastic products including pipes, wire and cable coatings, and packaging materials. Other uses include furniture and automobile upholstery, wall coverings, housewares, and automotive parts. At one time, vinyl chloride was used as a coolant, as a propellant in spray cans, and in some cosmetics. However, since the mid-1970s, vinyl chloride mostly has been used in the manufacture of PVC.

What happens to vinyl chloride when it enters the environment?

Most of the vinyl chloride that enters the environment comes from vinyl chloride manufacturing or processing plants, which release it into the air or into waste water. EPA limits the amount that industries can release. Vinyl chloride also is a breakdown product of other synthetic chemicals. Vinyl chloride has entered the environment at hazardous waste sites as a result of improper disposal or leakage from storage containers or spills, but some may result from the breakdown of other chemicals. In addition, vinyl chloride has been found in tobacco smoke at very low levels.
Liquid vinyl chloride evaporates easily. Vinyl chloride in water or soil evaporates rapidly if it is near the surface. Vinyl chloride in the air breaks down in a few days, resulting in the formation of several other chemicals including hydrochloric acid, formaldehyde, and carbon dioxide.
Some vinyl chloride can dissolve in water. Vinyl chloride can migrate to groundwater and can be in groundwater due to the breakdown of other chemicals. Vinyl chloride is unlikely to build up in plants or animals that you might eat.

How might I be exposed to vinyl chloride?

Because vinyl chloride usually exists in a gaseous state, you are most likely to be exposed to it by breathing it. Vinyl chloride is not normally found in urban, suburban, or rural air in amounts that are detectable by the usual methods of analysis. However, vinyl chloride has been found in the air near vinyl chloride manufacturing and processing plants, hazardous waste sites, and landfills. The amount of vinyl chloride in the air near these places ranges from trace amounts to over 1 ppm. Levels as high as 44 ppm were found in the air at some landfills. You can also be exposed to vinyl chloride in the air through tobacco smoke from cigarettes or cigars (both active smoking and second-hand smoke). Levels of vinyl chloride in tobacco smoke are very low, usually around 5–30 nanograms per cigarette (a nanogram is 0.000000001 gram).
You can be exposed to vinyl chloride by drinking water from contaminated wells. Most drinking water supplies do not contain vinyl chloride. In a 1982 survey, vinyl chloride was found in fewer than 1% of the 945 groundwater supplies tested in the United States. The concentrations in groundwater were up to 0.008 ppm. Other studies have reported vinyl chloride in groundwater at concentrations at or below 0.38 ppm. At one time, the flow of water through PVC pipes added very low amounts of vinyl chloride to water. For example, in one study of newly installed pipes, the drinking water had 0.001 ppm of vinyl chloride. No current information is available about the amount of vinyl chloride released from PVC pipes into water. In the past, vinyl chloride could get into food stored in materials containing PVC, but the U.S. government now regulates the amount of vinyl chloride in food packaging materials. When less than about 1 ppm of vinyl chloride is trapped in PVC packaging, vinyl chloride in detectable amounts does not enter food by contact with these products.
People who work at facilities that make vinyl chloride or PVC usually are exposed to higher levels than the general population. Work exposure occurs primarily from breathing air that contains vinyl chloride, but workers also are exposed when vinyl chloride contacts the skin or eyes. Based on studies using animals, it is possible that if vinyl chloride comes into contact with your skin or eyes, extremely small amounts could enter your body.

How can vinyl chloride enter and leave my body?

If vinyl chloride gas contacts your skin, tiny amounts may pass through the skin and enter your body. Vinyl chloride is more likely to enter your body when you breathe air or drink water containing it. This could occur near certain factories or hazardous waste sites or in the workplace. At low levels (<20 ppm), most of the vinyl chloride that you breathe or swallow enters your blood rapidly, then travels throughout your body. When some portion of it reaches your liver, your liver changes it into several substances. Most of these new substances also travel in your blood; once they reach your kidneys, they leave your body in your urine. Most of the vinyl chloride is gone from your body a day after you breathe or swallow it. The liver, however, makes some new substances that do not leave your body as rapidly. A few of these new substances are more harmful than vinyl chloride because they react with chemicals inside your body and interfere with the way your body normally uses or responds to these chemicals. Some of these substances react in the liver and, depending on how much vinyl chloride you breathe in, may produce damage there. Your body needs more time to get rid of these changed chemicals, but eventually removes them as well. If you breathe or swallow more vinyl chloride than your liver can chemically change, you will breathe out excess vinyl chloride.

How can vinyl chloride affect my health?

Scientists use many tests to protect the public from harmful effects of toxic chemicals and to find ways to treat people who have been harmed.
One way to learn whether a chemical will harm people is to determine how the body absorbs, uses, and releases the chemical. For some chemicals, animal testing may be necessary. Animal testing may also help identify health effects, such as cancer or birth defects. Without laboratory animals, scientists would lose a basic method for getting information needed to make wise decisions that protect public health. Scientists have the responsibility to treat research animals with care and compassion. Scientists must comply with strict animal-care guidelines because laws today protect the welfare of research animals.
If you breathe high levels of vinyl chloride, you will feel dizzy or sleepy. These effects occur within 5 minutes if you are exposed to about 10,000 ppm of vinyl chloride. You can easily smell vinyl chloride at this concentration. It has a mild, sweet odor. If you breathe still higher levels (25,000 ppm), you may pass out. You can rapidly recover from these effects if you breathe fresh air. Some people get a headache when they breathe fresh air immediately after breathing very high levels of vinyl chloride. People who breathe extremely high levels of vinyl chloride can die. Studies in animals show that extremely high levels of vinyl chloride can damage the liver, lungs, and kidneys. These levels also can damage the heart and prevent blood clotting. The effects of ingesting vinyl chloride are unknown. If you spill liquid vinyl chloride on your skin, it will numb the skin and produce redness and blisters.
Some people who have breathed vinyl chloride for several years have changes in the structure of their livers. People are more likely to develop these changes if they breathe high levels of vinyl chloride. Some people who have worked with vinyl chloride have nerve damage, and others develop an immune reaction. The lowest levels that produce liver changes, nerve damage, and immune reaction in people are not known. Certain jobs related to PVC production expose workers to very high levels of vinyl chloride (i.e., pools of liquid vinyl chloride in vats or autoclaves). Some of these workers have problems with the blood flow in their hands. Their fingers turn white and hurt when they go into the cold and may take a long time to recover when they go into a warm place. In some of these people, changes have appeared on the skin of their hands and forearms. Also, bones at the tips of their fingers have broken down. Studies suggest that some people may be more sensitive to these effects than others.
Some men who work with vinyl chloride have complained of a lack of sex drive. Studies in animals showed that long-term exposure can damage the sperm and testes. Some women who work with vinyl chloride have reported irregular menstrual periods. Some have developed high blood pressure during pregnancy.
Results from several studies have suggested that breathing air or drinking water containing moderate levels (100 ppm) of vinyl chloride might increase their risk for cancer. However, the levels used in these studies were much higher than levels found in the ambient air and/or most drinking water supplies. Studies of workers who have breathed vinyl chloride over many years showed an increased risk for cancer of the liver. Brain cancer, lung cancer, and some cancers of the blood also may be connected with breathing vinyl chloride over long periods. Studies of long-term exposure in animals showed that cancer of the liver and mammary gland may increase at very low levels of vinyl chloride in the air (50 ppm). Lab animals fed low levels of vinyl chloride each day (2 mg/kg/day) during their lifetime had an increased risk of getting liver cancer.

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has determined that vinyl chloride is a known carcinogen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has determined that vinyl chloride is carcinogenic to people, and EPA has determined that vinyl chloride is a human carcinogen.

How can vinyl chloride affect children?

This section discusses potential health effects in humans from exposures during the period from conception to maturity at 18 years of age.
No studies are available that specifically address the effects of vinyl chloride in children. Studies of women who live near vinyl chloride manufacturing plants did not show that vinyl chloride produces birth defects. Studies using pregnant animals showed that breathing high levels of vinyl chloride (5,000 ppm) can harm unborn baby animals. Animal studies also show that vinyl chloride can produce more miscarriages early in pregnancy and decrease weight and delay skeletal development in fetuses. These same very high levels of vinyl chloride also caused harmful effects in the pregnant animals. Inhalation studies with animals have suggested that vinyl chloride might affect growth and development. Animal studies also suggest that infants and young children might be more susceptible than adults to vinyl chloride-induced cancer.

How can families reduce the risk of exposure to vinyl chloride?

If your doctor finds that you have been exposed to substantial amounts of vinyl chloride, ask whether your children might also have been exposed. Your doctor might need to ask your state health department to investigate.
You can take some steps to limit your exposure to vinyl chloride. Very low levels of vinyl chloride exist in the ambient air, but these levels are usually not high enough to be a cause of concern. If you live near a hazardous waste site, municipal landfill, or a chemical plant that produces vinyl chloride or PVC, you might be exposed to higher levels of this compound than the general public. Vinyl chloride can leach from plastic PVC bottles or containers used to contain foods or beverages, but government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have restricted the amount of vinyl chloride that can be present in these packages. Tobacco smoke contains low levels of vinyl chloride, so limiting your family’s exposure to cigarette or cigar smoke may help reduce their exposure to vinyl chloride.
People who work in facilities that manufacture or use vinyl chloride could be exposed to high levels of this chemical. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates these levels and employers must comply with these rules. If you work in an industry that manufactures or uses vinyl chloride, strictly adhere to the rules provided by the safety officer and always use respirators when advised.

Is there a medical test to determine whether I have been exposed to vinyl chloride?

The results of several tests can sometimes show if you have been exposed to vinyl chloride, depending on the amount of your exposure and how recently it happened. However, scientists do not know whether these measurements can tell how much vinyl chloride you have been exposed to. These tests are not normally available at your doctor's office. Vinyl chloride can be measured in your breath, but the test must be done shortly after exposure. This test is not very helpful for measuring very low levels of the chemical. The amount of the major breakdown product of vinyl chloride, thiodiglycolic acid, in the urine may give some information about exposure. However, this test must be done shortly after exposure and does not reliably indicate the level of exposure. Also, exposure to other chemicals can produce the same breakdown products in your urine. Vinyl chloride can bind to genetic material in your body. The amount of this binding can be measured by sampling your blood and other tissues. This measurement will give information about whether you have been exposed to vinyl chloride, but it is not sensitive enough to determine the effects on the genetic material resulting from exposure.
SOURCE:  Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

 

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