“While the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has historically exercised its regulatory authority over many environmental contaminants, there are also many ’emerging contaminants’ that are not yet regulated,” associate Oliver E. Twaddell and partners George H. Buermann and Joseph J. Welter write in For the Defense — and these “emerging contaminants” have “captured the attention of the plaintiffs’ bar.” In their article, they describe and analyze two unregulated contaminants that have “catapulted … onto the national mass torts stage”: per-and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS) and 1,4-dioxane.
Oliver, George, and Joe review the backgrounds of both contaminants and how exposure occurs. Neither contaminant is currently regulated by the federal government, they note — and, “despite widespread contamination, there is no federal standard (i.e., maximum contaminant level) limiting the levels of 1,4-dioxane in tap water.” They review many of the types of claims arising for costs including remediation, diminution in property values, compensation for injuries, bio-monitoring, installation and maintenance of filtration systems, identifying and connecting to a permanent alternate water supply, and ongoing monitoring and treatment of drinking water.
“We expect that as more sites are disclosed and more testing is conducted, coupled with the development of health studies focusing on the effects of these prolific manmade chemicals, media and legal attention will remain high,” they conclude. “As more regulatory bodies — both state and federal — adopt guidelines for these contaminants, and as science develops, defense counsel should stand ready for what may already be the next mass tort.”
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