Birth Defect Litigation
Birth Defects from Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals
Some birth defects can be caused by prescription or over-the-counter medications, chemical exposure in the home or workplace, or toxic substances contaminating the air or groundwater in communities.
Some parents whose children have birth defects may consider litigation if they think the defects were caused by exposure.
What should I look for in a law firm to handle such a lawsuit?
Choose a law firm to represent your child with congenital disabilities.
A family should look for lawyers experienced in birth defect lawsuits.
It would be best if you had an experienced law firm with the resources to stand up to powerful industries that have caused pregnant women to be exposed to harmful chemicals resulting in birth defects.
Which congenital disabilities can be the basis of a birth defect lawsuit?
A lawsuit may be brought on behalf of the family of a child born with birth defects due to wrongful toxic and chemical exposures at work or home.
Some lawyers have been trained to help find the cause of a child’s birth defect.
If a company causes the child’s disability, these lawyers can bring a lawsuit against them.
Birth Defects vs. Birth Injuries
A congenital disability or “Birth Defect” is a structural or functional condition that happens while the infant is still in the womb.
In contrast, a birth injury occurs while the mother is in labor or in the delivery process.
Though they may share many similarities influencing a newborn’s general health and function, they can be set apart regarding their cause, impact on the child’s development, and how they are represented in court.
Pesticides contain many toxic chemicals that can cause congenital disabilities in children whose parents were exposed through agricultural work, groundwater contamination, or airborne drift.
Parents who work in the fields for the farming industry or live near an agricultural area are at high risk of exposure to pesticides used in the fields.
Pesticides may damage the parents’ chromosomes and lead to congenital disabilities among children conceived during or after exposure.
Birth defects and complications linked to pesticides include:
- Brain cancers
- Endocrine disruption
- Neurological disorders
- Lower birth weight and size
- Premature death
- Limb defects
Industrial Chemicals Used in High Tech and Electronics Manufacturing
Toxic chemicals used in many industries, including high-tech and electronics manufacturing, can cause birth defects and injuries to children whose parents are exposed to these dangerous chemicals.
Such chemicals are often used in clean-room environments to make semiconductor parts.
These chemicals include but are not limited to etching materials, solvents, cleaning fluids, and ethylene glycol ethers (EGE).
These and other toxic substances can cause reproductive harm to both men and women, disrupting the parents’ abilities to reproduce or causing them to pass damaged and defective DNA onto their children.
Birth defects linked to exposures in high-tech industries include:
- Skeletal and limb abnormalities
- Cognitive impairment
- Developmental Delays
- Missing or deformed organs
- Shortened or missing limbs
- Heart defects
- Cranial defects
- Missing or shortened limbs
- Organ malformation
- Facial abnormalities
Ground Water Contamination
A recent study of public water supplies found unsafe levels of chemicals in the water consumed every day by 6 million people.
Unfortunately, that number represents only the tip of the iceberg when you factor in the number of people whose water was not tested as part of the study, including those who consume contaminated water from private wells or those whose water is at risk of being contaminated.
Many in the U.S. assume their drinking water is safe, only to learn later they have been consuming toxic chemicals due to inadequate pollution controls and hazardous waste disposal practices.
The results for a community like Flint, Michigan, where residents were told their water was safe even after it was knowingly switched to an unsafe source, have been devastating.
Ninety percent of Americans get their water from public drinking water systems regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Public drinking water systems can be publicly or privately owned.
The EPA regulates the drinking water quality and sets the maximum concentration levels for water chemicals and pollutants.
Drinking water supplied to people’s homes comes from two sources:
Water collects in streams, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. Surface water systems extract water, treat it, and deliver it to homes.
Water that collects in pores and spaces within rocks and underground aquifers. Groundwater systems drill wells and pump water to the surface. They do not always treat the water before delivering it to homes.
EPA Public Drinking Water Systems Classifications
The U.S. has about 155,000 public water systems.
The EPA identifies these water systems based on how many people they serve, where their water comes from, and whether they serve the same customers all year or less frequently.
The EPA classifies public water systems into three types:
- Community Water System (CWS) — supplies water to the same customers annually. About 32% of public water systems are community systems.
- Non-Transient Non-Community Water System (NTNCWS) — regularly provides water to 25 or more of the same people at least half the year. Examples include schools, factories, office buildings, and hospitals that have water systems.
- Transient Non-Community Water System (TNCWS) — supplies water to gas stations, campgrounds, and other places where people do not stay for extended periods.
More than 286 million Americans get their tap water from a community water system, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Most community water systems use groundwater, but more people get their water from those that use surface water.
8% of U.S. community water systems provide water to 82% of the U.S. population through sizeable municipal water systems
Sources of Drinking Water Contamination
Contamination of public water systems can come from many sources.
Contaminants can be natural or human-induced.
Industrial discharges, urban activities, agriculture, and waste disposal can all affect water quality.
Leaking fuel tanks, toxic chemical spills, pesticides, and fertilizers are applied to either lawns or crops.
Chemical Contaminants Currently Found in Water
PFOA and PFOS
PFOA and PFOS are part of perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFAS).
These chemicals have been used in numerous industrial processes and for fighting fires at airfields.
The EPA issued lifetime health advisories for PFOA and PFOS in 2016.
The agency says it develops health advisories to provide information on contaminants that can cause human health reactions and are known or anticipated to occur in drinking water.
Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE)
MTBE is a flammable, colorless liquid added to gasoline to help it burn better.
Water contamination is the most likely source of MTBE exposure for most people.
MTBE can contaminate water through gasoline spills and leaking gas storage tanks and pipelines.
If gasoline is spilled on the ground or leaks out of underground storage tanks, MTBE is more likely to contaminate drinking water because it dissolves quickly and can travel further through groundwater than other gasoline components.
It also can remain in underground water for a long time.
Firefighting Foam Cancer Risk
PFAS is a human-made chemical that was not present in humans’ blood before the development of commercial firefighting foam.
For decades, studies have found that exposure to PFAS can cause tumors in animals. As a result, scientific principals should have led manufacturers to recognize the potential link between AFFF foam and human cancer since the precise mechanism of action was never confirmed in animal studies.
However, for decades, warnings about the dangers of the substance have been withheld from firefighters, military personnel and airport workers.
AFFF was introduced for commercial use in the mid-1960s. Many firefighting organizations and military bases began using it.
By the 1960s, animal toxicity testing found that exposure to PFAS chemicals resulted in harmful health effects among laboratory animals.
These included toxic side effects on testicles, liver, adrenals and other organs.
By the end of the 1970s, additional research found that the unique chemical structure may cause PFAS in AFFF to bind to proteins in the blood of animals and humans exposed to the material, which can remain and persist over long periods.
Even though it was known that the AFFF chemicals might accumulate in the body and blood with each additional exposure, manufacturers continued to market and sell the firefighting foam without adequate warnings and precautions for firefighters.
By the 1980s, researchers had gone as far as to identify the mechanism of action which led to PFAS causing an increased cancer risk.
When regulatory agencies in the U.S., including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), raised concerns, many manufacturers reassured them there was no risk of adverse health effects or environmental damage, claims which have primarily since been proven false.
By 2010, additional research and testing found that workers exposed to PFAS may have an increased risk for cancer, hormone changes, lipid changes and impacts on the thyroid and liver.
A science panel determined in the mid-2010s that human exposure to only 0.05 parts per billion of one PFAS, PFOA, had probable links to kidney, testicular, and other diseases.
Hydraulic Fracturing (“Fracking”) and Birth Defects
Recent studies have found that glycol ethers, toluene and several other well-established chemicals known to cause congenital disabilities and miscarriages are prominent in the gas extraction process known as fracking.
Epidemiologic studies, animal studies, and incident report strongly support the causal relationship between these birth defects and exposure to chemicals in industrial solvents.
- Cleft lip and/or palate
- Neural tube defects
- Spina bifida
- Cerebral Palsy
- Cardiovascular defects
- Digestive anomalies.
These industries involve potential exposures to solvents:
- Furniture making
- Manufacturing of industrial machinery and equipment
- Medical and scientific laboratories
- Commercial printing
- Cosmetology and hairdresser products
- Plastics industry
- Textile industry
Lead and Birth Defects
Toxic heavy metals such as lead can increase the risk of birth defects.
Lead is a hazardous material that produces hundreds of products, including batteries, metals, paint, ceramic glazes, cable covering, ammunition, and more.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the use of lead in paint, gasoline, and other products in the 1970s.
However, the substance is still present in older products and the environment, including drinking water from contaminated leaded pipes, scented candle wicks, plastic handles on specific tools, and leaded crystals and ceramics.
High or even low levels of lead exposure can cause various illnesses and have deleterious reproductive effects in men and women, including lower sperm count and spontaneous abortion.
Furthermore, maternal exposure to lead, easily transferred from mother to child through the placenta as early as the first trimester, poses significant risks of congenital disabilities.
While there is no specific pattern of birth defects linked to lead exposure during pregnancy, some common lead congenital disabilities may include:
- Neurological damage
- Developmental delays
- Low birth weight
- Skin markings, including skin tags
- Slowed postnatal neurobehavioral development
- Premature delivery/shortened gestation
- Undescended male testicles
- Miscarriage/spontaneous abortion
What are Dioxins?
Dioxins are a family of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxin compounds found everywhere in the environment, generally at low levels.
These large, complex molecules do not quickly biodegrade and are incredibly persistent.
The most toxic and readily found is 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, commonly known as TCCD.
In addition, certain dioxin-like substances, brominated and chlorinated dibenzofurans (CDFs), and certain polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) appear to have similar toxic effects.
There are 219 possible chlorinated dibenzodioxins (CDDs) and dibenzofurans.
What Are Dioxins Used For?
Dioxins do not occur naturally in the environment but are unintended results of human activity.
The primary source is the combustion of chlorinated chemicals.
Dioxins can be formed in manufacturing chlorophenols and phenoxy herbicides, in the chlorine bleaching process of paper, and incineration of organic waste containing chlorine products.
The most significant sources of dioxin discharge into the environment are factories that make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products and incinerators burning chlorine waste.
Adverse Human Health Effects:
The primary route of human exposure is the ingestion of dioxin-contaminated foods.
According to the US EPA, 38% of total exposure to dioxin in the U.S. comes from eating beef; 24.1% from dairy products other than milk; 17.6% from milk; and 37% divided among chicken, pork, fish and eggs.
Acute Health Effects:
Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD) is the most toxic of the dioxin compounds tested in experimental animals.
Humans, however, are not exposed to pure TCCD. Combinations with other associated chemicals may contribute to human dioxin toxicity.
Acute levels produce eye irritation, headaches, nausea and vomiting, severe muscle pain, elevated liver enzyme levels, gross liver enlargement, pancreatitis, chloracne, neurobehavioral effects, persistently elevated blood lipids, and possibly increased risk of death from a heart attack or coronary artery disease.
Suppression of the immune system, withering of the thymus gland, and a wasting syndrome have been produced in experimental animals. There is no known effect dose of dioxins.
Repeated exposure produces cumulative toxicity.
Since dioxins are fat-soluble, they bioaccumulate and move from smaller to larger organisms in the food chain.
Levels in fish can be 100,000 times that of the surrounding water.
Bioaccumulation continues in human fat cells because dioxins have an elimination half-life (the time it takes the body to eliminate one-half of its accumulation) in mammals of approximately 7 to 10 years.
The US EPA estimates that the average U.S. citizen without any direct exposure to dioxins other than a routine diet has an average body burden of 13 nanograms of dioxin per kilogram of body weight (ng/kg), or parts per trillion (ppt), and the level increases with age.
Dioxin has been found in the sperm of Vietnam veterans 20 years after exposure.
Dioxins have been found to disrupt the balance of the endocrine system.
These and other adverse effects have been found at body burden levels (levels that have accumulated in our bodies) very near the U.S. average.
EPA estimates that 5 percent of Americans, approximately 12.5 million people, have body burdens twice the average.
Dioxins cross the placenta, concentrate in the fetus, and are suspected of causing reproductive effects.
Those effects include complications of pregnancy, such as Dioxin spontaneous abortion.
Birth defects include abnormal development of the germ layer in the early embryo.
The germ layer forms the central nervous system and sense organs.
Other defects are developmental and growth retardation, skeletal, cardiovascular, central nervous system (CNS) malformations, decreased sperm quality, and feminization.
In an occupational setting, decreased male hormones were reported at 1.3 times the average, and sperm loss and endometriosis in monkeys and rats at five times the U.S. average body burden.
Learning disorders have been reported in young monkeys with dioxin body burdens as low as 42 ppt, or 3.2 times the U.S. average.
Dioxins are excreted in breast milk, and nursing infants are at high-risk for exposure because of their immature central nervous and immune systems.
Studies have shown immune system toxicity in monkeys at 10 ppt, 25% below the average U.S. body burden.
The US EPA has known about the toxicity of dioxins since the 1970s but did little to address the problem until they published a 9- volume peer-reviewed draft assessment in 1994.
Chapter 9 concludes that dioxin probably causes cancer in wildlife and humans.
Citation: EPA Report
It harms the immune system and the reproductive systems in fish, birds, and mammals, including humans, at minuscule doses.
Only part of the final report has been issued.
Dr. Peter Hauser from the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center published an article that reviewed several studies on human reproductive outcomes of prenatal exposures to dioxins and dioxin-like chemicals.
These studies reported children with increases in learning and attention disorders and ectodermal problems.
Although dioxins are not believed to be directly genetically toxic, they can bind to specific genetic receptors in a manner that can promote conditions favorable to gene mutations.
Dioxins are probable human carcinogens. Evidence is strong for an association with soft tissue sarcomas.
Hodgkin’s disease and nonHodgkin’s lymphoma are more closely linked with exposure to chlorphenoxy herbicides that are contaminated with dioxins during manufacture.
Evidence links dioxins to respiratory and prostate cancer and multiple myeloma.
Increased thyroid and breast cancer incidents and increased stomach and brain cancer deaths have been reported.
Studies in humans have shown that the risk of cancer rises significantly when the body burden reaches 109 ppt, approximately 8 times the current U.S. average.
Public health policy usually aims to keep the public’s exposure to poisons at least 100 times below levels known to harm humans or animals.
Because of their acutely lethal effects in experimental animals and their role as probable human and animal carcinogens, TCDD and other dioxins are EPA Class 3 for general toxicity, which may cause irreversible, life-threatening effects.
What are Endocrine Disruptors?
Recently discovered threats from synthetic chemicals that can disrupt the human endocrine system. These chemicals are known as endocrine disruptors (EDCs).
EDCs include a wide range of synthetic chemicals that are not only found as toxic waste in the natural environment but also as part of everyday household items.
While the carcinogenic effects of these pollutants have been studied extensively, studies of the EDC effects are just starting to gain validity.
Although some sources of toxic waste have been reduced, concentrations of these chemicals are still high. Significant residues remain on the land, air, and surface waters.
Some EDCs are persistent organic pollutants that take many years to break down or degrade by natural biological processes.
They have accumulated in such places as lake and river sediments and in animal and human fat worldwide as harmful substances that put us at risk.
There are many different types of chemicals in the environment.
Some of these chemicals are called organochlorines. These include PCBs, chlorinated pesticides, and dioxins.
While the U.S. manufacture of some of these chemicals has been banned, they persist in the environment.
Persistent organic pollutants, also called bio accumulators, are magnified as they move up the food web in aquatic systems from the smaller microorganisms in the sediments to tiny organisms to the largest organisms where they accumulate in the body fat.
The substances may be at such low levels in the surface water that they are not detectable by standard sampling techniques.
However, the pollutants work their way up the food web as the organisms eat each other.
Over time, water birds near the top of the food web have accumulated contamination at millions of times higher levels in the sediments.
As these persistent organic pollutants are concentrated and stored in the body, the possibility exists that their effects may be additive or even synergistic.
We are exposed to vast cocktails of these chemicals, but their combined effects are unknown.
Although some of us are already at our body’s limit to tolerate these persistent organic pollutants, we tolerate them well compared to the developing embryo or fetus, which is extremely sensitive to foreign chemicals in the womb or egg (fish, birds, reptiles).
Women may pass them to the fetus through the placenta and to the newborn through breastfeeding.
A wide range of functional deficits can result that are not visible at birth and can reduce a child’s potential as they mature.
The endocrine system governs the development and functioning of an invertebrate’s body.
The endocrine system Endocrine Disruptors produces hormones, or chemical messengers, that move through the bloodstream, carrying signals that govern sex and reproduction and coordinate organs and tissues that work in concert to keep the body functioning correctly.
Many persistent environmental organic pollutants (not restricted to PCBs, DDT, and dioxins) act as endocrine disruptors.
For some reason, the hormone receptors in organ tissue mistake these hormones mimic as the real thing, responding to a false signal.
During prenatal and early postnatal development, organ defects and changed bodily functions result.
Preliminary investigations have shown that timing, not dosage strength, governs the type of damage to a developing fetus or child.
Minute doses in fetal development are more destructive than larger doses at the right time.
Studies have shown that hormone disruptors can cause reproductive system problems, infertility, and compromised immune systems in wildlife.
They can also cause impaired mental development, learning difficulties, hyperactivity, and clear cell vaginal cancer in humans.
The offending compounds have been detected not only in pesticides and other toxic chemicals but in household substances such as plastics used for toys, dental sealants, contraceptives, and dishwashing liquids.
We need to know more about how this toxic cocktail affects our body and its reproductive system.