New Jersey residents worry about health years after toxic spill

Today’s society is heavily dependent on the use of various hazardous and injurious chemicals in the workplace for manufacturing, production and many other processes. The downside to the use of these products is harmful exposure with negative health effects that may mimic symptoms of common illness and lead to either a misdiagnoses or delay in diagnosis by a health professional.

Residents of Garfield, New Jersey are worried about the impact on their health from ingestion of potentially contaminated underground water supply with a known carcinogen, hexavalent chromium. Nearly 29 years ago, a storage container of hexavalent chromium spilled into the soil, contaminating the community’s underground water supply.

Hundreds of homes and businesses were and still are affected. The now-defunct company responsible for the chemical spill took steps to clean the spill, but it was too daunting a task and required assistance from the federal government.

After nearly three decades, the clean-up is still in progress and will take years to complete. Even though the government and company spent millions of dollars on purifying the water, residents are worried about their health. According to the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry, hexavalent chromium ingestion may result in anemia, damage to the stomach or damage to the intestines.

Chromium levels can be tested from blood, hair and urine samples and a higher than normal level may be an indicator of exposure. However, since chromium (III) naturally occurs in food, presence of the chemical may not predict negative health effects that might develop from exposure.

Despite the availability of this test and because of common symptoms an exposure victim presents, medical professionals can misinterpret the results. Their unfamiliarity with the chemical and lack of information about the community exposure can lead to a misdiagnosis, wrong test or delayed diagnoses.

Failure to diagnose a condition or disease can lead to serious health effects and even death. If an individual suffers an injury due to disease progression and that injury could have been treated in a timely manner with a proper diagnosis, the medical professional may be found negligent and held liable. Causation may be difficult to prove, but an injured party may be able to recover damages for pain and suffering, as well as past, present and future medical expenses.

Healthcare professionals have a duty to provide a reasonable standard of care. In the absence of such care, an injured individual or family may be entitled to just compensation.

Source: NBC4, “29 Years After Toxic Spill, NJ Families Worried About Health,” Andrew Siff, August 1, 2012

Posted in: Medical Malpractice