Dangers of Exposure to PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’

Oakdale Drinking Water Contamination

The Star Tribune reported in September 2020 that Oakdale, Minnesota residents who drank water contaminated with PFAS “forever chemicals” experienced increased rates of infertility, premature births and low birth weights. According to the findings, for the past few years, babies in Oakdale were 35% more likely to weigh less than 5.5 pounds at birth, nearly 45% were more likely to be born before 32 weeks’ gestation, and the general fertility rate was 15-25% lower compared to communities where water was not contaminated with PFAS chemicals.

What are Forever Chemicals?

PFAS is short for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. This grouping of more than 5,000 man-made chemicals are known as ‘forever chemicals’ as a result of the substantial amount of time required for these chemicals to break down in the environment.

PFAS chemicals are identified by their fluorine and carbon bonds which are very difficult to break–leading to the extremely long amount of time it takes for these chemicals to disintegrate. PFAS chemicals have been used in multiple industries since the 1940s due to their ability to repel oil and water. They can be found in Teflon nonstick products, polishes, waxes, clothing, stain and water repellants, paints, cleaning products, food packaging, and firefighting foams.

How Did PFAS Chemicals Contaminate the Water?

The 3M- Oakdale Disposal Site (sometimes called Oakdale or Granada Dump) is located along Old Hwy 5 / County Road 14 in Oakdale–just west of Interstate 694. The disposal site consists of three old chemical waste dump sites (Abresch, Brockman, and Eberle) used during the late 1940s through 1950s for waste burial (including PFAS chemicals), drum reclamation, and the open burning of combustible materials. As a result, ground, surface water, and soil contamination occurred at this site. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) first investigated the 3M- Oakdale Disposal site in 1980 and discovered a variety of hazardous substances were present there–especially volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and PFAS chemicals.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the waste containing PFAS chemicals that was disposed of in the 3M- Oakdale Disposal Site and former Washington County Landfill seeped into the groundwater and entered Raleigh Creek, which flows from the Oakdale Disposal Site into the city of Lake Elmo. The contaminated water was then discharged to Eagle Point Lake in the Lake Elmo Park Reserve. PFAS chemicals have now been detected in one private well in Oakdale, approximately 300 private wells in Lake Elmo, and one of Lake Elmo’s municipal wells. PFAS chemicals originating primarily from the 3M- Oakdale Disposal Site have been detected in most of the Oakdale municipal wells. In 2006, 3M funded the construction of a water treatment plant for Oakdale’s primary municipal water wells in addition to funding the installation of a new city well outside of the contaminated area in addition to continued clean-up efforts in both Lake Elmo and Oakdale.

What Is Being Done About This?

Peer-reviewed research published in April 2020 in the scientific journal Environmental Health highlighted the causal link between the chemicals and the adverse reproductive impacts. Philippe Grandjean, the leading chemicals researcher at Harvard University, explained that the Washington County suburb has become a “natural experiment” due to the fact that there have been measurable differences in health outcomes before and after the water treatment facility was installed in 2006 to remove the PFAS chemicals from the municipal water supply.

Former Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson believes that the scientific links between the PFAS contamination caused by 3M and the adverse health effects “will be used in litigation that has been filed and is going to be filed, not just here but in other countries as well.” Swanson successfully sued 3M in 2018, resulting in an $850 million settlement for environmental damages.

New research conducted by David Sunding, a natural resources economist at the University of California-Berkeley, was used during the 2018 3M trial in which Sunding was called as an expert witness. The findings showed that from 2001 to 2006, Oakdale mothers exposed to PFAS-contaminated drinking water were 34% more likely to deliver premature babies compared with county mothers who did not drink the contaminated water. Sunding said, “I was always confident in the result–they practically jumped off the screen from the first time we ran the model–and I swore so in my testimony for the [attorney general].”

However, the Minnesota Department of Health stands by its 2018 conclusions that there was not an unusual increase in low birth weights or premature births in Washington County. Jessie Shmool, the Department of Health epidemiologist who coordinated the state’s analysis, said the state used more detailed data over more time points than the studies cited by Swanson’s team.

Lawsuits Against 3M

In September 2020, 3M was sued over ‘forever chemicals’ pollution by the Hopatcong Borough in New Jersey. The federal lawsuit alleges that 3M concealed risks posed by the forever chemicals that were manufactured by the company and that the company had known about the dangers associated with PFAS for years but withheld that information from consumers, government entities, and the public. The lawsuit also alleges that 3M manipulated scientific research on the chemicals, which led to the borough’s drinking water becoming more contaminated. The complaint alleged: “3M marketed and sold PFAS with the knowledge that PFAS would be released into the environment and without warning users or others of the risks of PFAS to the environment and to human health.”

The contamination likely occurred when 3M manufactured and marketed the toxic chemicals for use in the Garden State and the substances ended up contaminating the groundwater that supplies the Hopatcong Borough’s wells which serve approximately 7,000 people. Seven of the wells contain perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The levels of those PFAS in five of the wells exceed the “maximum contaminant levels” set by New Jersey regulators.

Complaint Alleges 3M Knew PFAS Chemicals are Toxic

The federal lawsuit includes counts for negligence, failure to warn, nuisance and trespassing. The borough is seeking funds for the investigation, treatment, remediation, and monitoring costs related to the contamination. The complaint claims, “3M knew or should have known that in their intended and/or common use, products containing PFAS would very likely injure and/or threaten public health and the environment in New Jersey.”

The complaint alleges that 3M concluded in the 1950s that PFAS are “toxic” based on internal studies and, by the early 1960s, 3M “understood that some PFAS are stable, persist in the environment, and that they do not degrade.” However, according to the complaint “despite the defendant’s specific knowledge of the dangers and serious harm that could result from the continued use, manufacture, marketing, and distribution of PFAS. Defendant failed to provide this information to federal or state regulators, the general public or plaintiff.”

After facing pressure from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 3M started to phase out production of PFOS and PFOA products in 2000 before ceasing production in 2002. However, the Hopatcong Borough’s attorney said: “3M is responsible for contaminating the drinking water of the community served by my client, with the dangerous PFAS chemicals, for decades.”

In response, 3M stated that the company “acted responsibly in connection with products containing PFAS and will vigorously defend our record of environmental stewardship.”

How GoldenbergLaw Can Help You

Our Minnesota Cancer Attorneys have over 30 years of experience representing victims harmed by toxic exposure. Contact our team today for a free consultation, and leave the sleepless nights to us.

 

 

What Medications Cause Stevens-Johnson Syndrome?

What Is SJS And What Are The Symptoms?

Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) is a serious and potentially life-threatening skin reaction. SJS reactions typically start with flu-like symptoms and often a rash in which skin blisters like a burn and the top layer of affected skin sheds. The blisters are immensely painful and usually spread throughout the body. As the skin peels off, most people must be hospitalized and are transferred to a burn unit—sometimes for weeks. This may result in permanent impairment to bodily openings such as injuries to the eyes, tear ducts, reproductive organs or anus.

SJS is most commonly caused by the body’s adverse reaction to a medication or an infection. Most medication reactions occur in the first 2-6 weeks of taking the drug.

What Types of Medications Can Cause SJS?

  • Antibacterial sulfa drugs
  • Anti-epileptic drugs, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics
  • Gout and kidney stone treatments
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Antibiotics
  • Antibacterial sulfonamides
  • HIV/AIDS treatment drugs
  • Pain relievers

Specific Medications That Can Cause SJS

  • Allopurinol
  • Carbamazepine
  • Lamotrogine/Lamictal
  • Nevirapine
  • Meloxican and Piroxicam
  • Phenobarbital
  • Phenytoin
  • Sulfa antibiotics
  • Sertraline
  • Sulfasalazine

Black Box Warning On Lamictal/Lamotrogine

A black box warning is the most serious warning the FDA requires to be placed on a medication about its side effects and there is a black box warning on Lamictal. It is a warning to doctors and pharmacists that the risk of developing SJS should be disclosed to the patient. The patient must also be told that at the first signs of developing flu-like symptoms or a rash, they should contact their doctor. This is so the medication may immediately be discontinued and the risks of developing SJS may be minimized.

Lamictal (lamotrigine) is a highly-prescribed anti-epileptic medication known as an anticonvulsant that is most commonly used to treat epileptic seizures in adults or children. The drug is also frequently used to delay mood episodes in patients with bipolar depression (manic depression). It is available as an immediate-release drug and an extended-release Lamictal XR which is only available for use in patients above the age of 13. Children are more vulnerable than adults to develop SJS from using this medication.

Pharmacy Times reported that the black box warning on Lamictal warning of the risk of SJS is one of the top ten black box warnings medical authorities and pharmacies should be aware of when prescribing and/or dispensing such medication due to the life-threatening nature of SJS.

How Can a Doctor Or Pharmacist Contribute to Causing SJS? 

The risk of developing a horrible side effect such as SJS from a medication must be taken into consideration by medical professionals and pharmacists when they prescribe and dispense a medication that has been linked to causing SJS. It is critical that patients are made aware of the risks of taking the medication so they can make an informed, consensual decision to take the medication.

Here are two common mistakes doctors or pharmacists make that can contribute to SJS:

  1. The mistake of prescribing too much medication too quickly. The manufacturer warns that prescribing or dispensing medication linked to SJS in excess of the recommended initial dose or subsequently rapidly accelerating the dosage puts their patients at an increased risk of developing SJS. Such excessive prescriptions also have the ability to elevate the severity of the illness if it develops.
  2. The mistake of failing to advise the patient of the risks of SJS. Despite the well-known links between certain medications and the development of SJS, medical authorities or pharmacists are often unaware of the risks and/or fail to communicate this information to their patients. This may lead to the patient continuing to take the medication despite the early signs of SJS. This is an avoidable oversight that can cause potentially life-threatening harm to patients.

 A Brief Pathology Of How Medications Cause SJS 

Essentially, medication-induced SJS can be caused from a response by a person’s immune system to something that it believes is toxic.

Although there is not yet a consensus in the scientific community about exactly what happens in the body as a person develops SJS, one theory suggests that the cutaneous (skin) reactions account for the majority of the effects after an idiosyncratic reaction (adverse reactions that develop mostly unpredictably) to a medication has occurred. The severe skin issues associated with SJS are also believed to be caused by keratinocyte apoptosis. Keratinocyte apoptosis regulates new skin cells and, in certain circumstances, can result in the body eliminating its own cells. However, an unnecessary elimination of the body’s cells may occur if the keratinocyte apoptosis process becomes dysfunctional–as is the case with SJS–resulting in the damage and elimination of too many cells. This may lead to a cell-mediated cytotoxic (immune) reaction which results in proteins called cytokines being produced and further damage is done to the cells.

How GoldenbergLaw Can Help You

If you, or a loved one, has been diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome while taking a medication listed above, you may have a case against the clinic or pharmacy due to a failure to warn or wrongful dosing of the medication. Contact the Stevens-Johnson Syndrome attorneys at GoldenbergLaw today for a free consultation. We understand the devastating effects of SJS. Our team of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome lawyers have the experience and expertise needed to bring a complex malpractice claim. We have over 30+ years of experience holding negligent medical providers accountable. Leave the sleepless nights to us.

Impact of Hands-Free Driving Laws

Distracted Driving in the U.S.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each day approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 people are injured in crashes that involve a distracted driver.

Distracted driving is defined as “driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving. Distracted driving can increase the chance of a motor vehicle crash.”

Types of distracted driving include:

  • Visual: taking your eyes off of the road
  • Manual: taking your hands off of the wheel
  • Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving

Distracted Driving in Minnesota

The Massachusetts-based company TrueMotion that monitors cellphone use for insurance companies reported that Minnesota drivers spent about 15% of every trip on the phone talking, swiping, and texting prior to the hands-free driving law. From 2014 through 2018, more than 60,000 crashes in Minnesota resulted from distracted driving—which accounts for 1 out of every 5 auto accidents in Minnesota. On average, distracted driving led to 45 deaths and 204 severe injuries each year prior to the Minnesota hands-free driving law.

Minnesota’s Hands-Free Driving Law: When It Was Introduced, What it Allows/Does Not Allow, and Penalties

On August 1, 2019, Minnesota’s hands-free driving law went into effect after being signed by Governor Tim Walz in April 2019 with the goal of making Minnesota’s roads safer.

What is Prohibited Under the Hands-Free Driving Law:

  • Holding cellphone in hand
  • Using phone for video calling, Snapchat, gaming, looking at videos or photos stored on the phone, using non-navigation apps, reading texts, scrolling or typing on the phone, video live-streaming
  • Using a smartwatch for anything besides checking the time

What is Allowed Under the Hands-Free Driving Law:

  • Motorists can make emergency 911 calls
  • GPS systems can be used for navigation
  • In-car screens and systems may be used while driving
  • Operating cellphone through voice commands or single-touch activation

Penalties for Violating the Hands-Free Driving Law:

The first ticket for violating the hands-free driving law is $50 plus court costs. Subsequent tickets for violating the law is $275 plus court costs.

Advice on Going Hands-Free from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety

  • Put your phone in a purse/bag, trunk, center console, glove compartment, mounted on bottommost portion of the dashboard, passenger seat, or cup holder while driving
  • Use a single earphone that has a microphone since using earphones in both ears at the same time while driving is illegal in Minnesota
  • Pair your phone to your current car or truck
  • Buy an auxiliary cable and connect your phone’s earphone jack to your car’s auxiliary input
  • If your car does not have an auxiliary cable but has a cassette player, buy an adapter that fits into the cassette player and you can connect your phone through the earphone jack
  • Buy a holder to clip your phone to the dashboard
  • Buy a Bluetooth speaker or earphone to pair with your phone

Impact of Hands-Free Driving Law in Minnesota

In August 2019, Minnesota law enforcement ticketed 2,317 motorists for violating the hands-free driving law, followed by an 18% increase in September 2019 with 2,729 motorists ticketed.

State Patrol Lt. Gordon Shank associates the increase in tickets with the impulse to use cellphones that is hard for drivers to resist: “Unfortunately, some drivers have become comfortable and are slipping back into old habits when it comes to using the phone while behind the wheel.”

Within the first five months of enforcing the hands-free driving law, more than ¾ of the 9,700 tickets were upheld—only 178 drivers (less than 2%) had tickets dismissed from August 1 through December 31, 2019. More than 2,100 of the tickets were due to activities such as watching videos, playing games, or using other software applications while driving.

Nationwide Impact of Hands-Free Driving Laws

Currently, 22 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands have prohibited all drivers from using handheld cellphones while driving in an attempt to decrease distracted driving. All are primary enforcement lawyers, meaning that the officer may ticket the driver for using a handheld cellphone without any other traffic violation occurring.

The Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine’s study “Driver Cellphone and Texting Bans in the United States: Evidence of Effectiveness” concluded that: “all driver bans on hand-held phone conversations have resulted in long-term reductions in hand-held phone use, and drivers in ban states reported higher rates of hands-free phone use and lower overall phone use compared with drivers in non-ban states…Bans on all phone use by teenage drivers have not been shown to reduce their phone use.”

Other Distracted Driving Legislation

Although no states have banned all cellphone use for all drivers, 37 states and the District of Columbia have banned all cellphone use for novice drivers. In addition, 23 states and the District of Columbia have prohibited cellphone use for school bus drivers.

Regarding text messaging, Washington was the first state to pass a legislative ban on texting while driving in 2007. Since then, 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands have all banned texting for all drivers and all but three have primary enforcement laws regarding text messaging. Of the two states without an all-driver texting ban, Missouri prohibits texting by novice drivers.

How GoldenbergLaw Can Help You

Our Minnesota car accident attorneys understand that your quality of life, your ability to learn, and your sense of security all can be taken away in the time it takes for a negligent driver to look away from the road. For over 33 years, GoldenbergLaw has helped thousands of accident victims successfully recover physically, emotionally, and financially. We know you have worries about long-term medical expenses, lost income, an inability to work, your family obligations as well as physical and emotional hardships. Our job is to guide you through these hard times and be your trusted advocate. Call us today, and leave the sleepless nights to us.