Some events manage to seem like they happened just yesterday. At the same time, it can seem like eons since they were actively unfolding. A recent headline that caught the attention of our Panama City toxic injury law firm reminded us that over two-and-a-half years have passed since the explosion that sparked the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. The accident occurred on April 20, 2010, and workers finally capped the wellhead on July 15, 2010. While the calendar keeps moving ahead, the full impact of the explosion, including the 4.9 million barrels of crude oil released in the aftermath and the chemicals used in the clean-up process, remains to be seen. Toxic tort claims are one way in which the law protects individuals who suffer long-term health effects following such environmental disasters.
As reported by the News Herald, the National Institute of Environmental Health ("NIEHS") is currently looking for people willing to take part in a long-term study of the impact of the 2010 Gulf Oil spill. The group is looking for workers or volunteers involved with any aspect of the incident to join the study in advance of a December 31st deadline. Over 30,000 individuals have already agreed to take part and the NIEHS hopes to enroll 10,000 more participants in the coming month. The study, which is expected to last 10 years, is projected to be the largest investigation ever into both short- and long-term health effects of oil spills, including the impact on both mental and physical health.
Dale Sandler, an NIEHS researcher, said there is currently very little known about the health impacts of an oil spill, but he added that the study will help communities to be better prepared to respond to future oil-related disasters. Investigators plan to choose 15,000 participants for clinical home visits and to conduct a more intensive study of a group of 5,000 participants via long-term health monitoring. Study information will be kept private and confidential and will not involve disclosing participants' health information. However, participants will be told the results of their own screening tests, and the officials will provide referrals to medical providers where necessary.
The NIEHS study is a reminder of the fact that oil spill disasters pose a risk to the environment in general and also to the health of individuals in the impacted communities. Despite the existence of both state and federal environmental laws, numerous chemicals and toxins are released into the environment every single day. Both these daily events and the larger-scale disasters can leave people sick, often without clear answers as to the source of their illness.
If toxins have made you or a loved one ill, you may have legal recourse via a "toxic tort" claim. These claims allow an individual, or group of individuals, to recover compensation from a company that released pollutants or other byproducts that left the individual sick or injured. Toxins that can lead to medical problems include pesticides, asbestos, toxic waste, oil, and gas. These and other substances can cause a range of serious medical issues such as cancer, respiratory illness, brain damage, and birth defects.
Toxic tort suits not only allow individuals to recover money damages, but also serve an important public purpose in holding companies accountable for their actions. This accountability encourages companies to consider and prioritize safety, a move that can prevent future disasters and keep others from suffering similar illnesses.
If you believe a toxic release or environmental disaster caused you or a loved one to fall ill, please contact The Pittman Firm for a free consultation. We are here to help.