Cancer clusters occur when a greater than expected number of cancer cases occur within a group of people, a region, or a time period. Suspected cancer clusters are investigated by epidemiologists who try to determine if a true cancer cluster exists. If a cancer cluster is determined, a Philadelphia personal injury lawyer can investigate the situation to determine who may be at fault for the cluster.
Environmental Causes of Cancer
According to the National Institute of Health, over 65% of all cancers can be attributed to environmental factors. Some of the factors that affect cancer risk includes exposure to radiation, bacteria, and environmental chemicals that may be present in the air, water, food, and workplace.
Environmental factors, such as exposure to chemicals, interact with cells throughout our body. Over time, substances in the environment can cause gene alterations and sometimes lead to cancer.
What are Some Environmental Substances That Can Cause Cancer?
Pesticides – Over 20 ingredients in registered pesticides in the US have been designated as carcinogenic in animals, and many more of the chemicals have not been tested. Studies of people with high exposures to pesticides have found high rats of certain cancers.
Solvents – the solvent benzene is known to cause leukemia in humans. Benzene is commonly used in the chemical and drug industries, and it is a component of gasoline. Workplace exposures may occur in the petrochemical, pharmaceutical or transportation industry. Air contamination with benzene can occur around gas stations and congested areas with automobile exhaust.
Radon – Some homes or buildings have elevated levels of radon, a radioactive gas found in the soil. About 5% of homes has elevated radon levels. It is estimated that 20,000 lung cancer deaths are the result of radon exposure in homes.
Liability for Cancer Clusters
Cancer clusters are very complex and difficult to litigate. They require expert testimony and the ability to prove that the cancer cluster is the result of someone’s negligence. When cancer clusters are tied to environmental pollutants, this often pits plaintiffs against large corporations.
One example of a cancer cluster lawsuit is happening in Houston, TX. In Anna Dorsey, et al. v. Union Pacific Railroad Company, et al., over 80 residents in the Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens neighborhoods have sued Union Pacific Railroad company for extensive damages for contamination of their properties and groundwater with toxic chemicals, creosote, and known probable human carcinogen. This lawsuit cites a Texas Department of State Health Services report that identified a cancer cluster in the neighborhoods surrounding the rail yard. The cancers identified in these neighborhoods are linked to exposure to creosote, a wood preservative and probable carcinogen. The state health department reported that a specific childhood leukemia suffered by a plaintiff in the case had occurred 5 times more often than the national average.
In other cases, a cancer cluster can be linked with occupational exposure at a workplace. Workplace exposures may be more likely to cause cancer due to potential higher levels of exposure over a longer period of time. These exposures are sometimes more easily identified as the group of people exposed is easier to trace. In Mauldin et al v. 3M Company et al., two dozen firefighters in California are suing 3M Co., W.L. Gore & Associates, and Johnson Controls Inc. over foam and protective gear containing PFAS chemicals. The plaintiffs were all diagnosed with cancers and had elevated levels of PFAS in their blood.
Litigating Cancer Clusters
Cancer cluster lawsuits can take years and can be difficult to prove. In fact, a 2012 study of 576 cancer clusters investigations over a 20-year period resulted in only one cluster proven to have occurred due to a specific environmental cause.
To prove a cancer cluster case in a court of law, the legal team must be able to prove that:
- The victim has received a cancer diagnosis
- The victim had been repeatedly exposed to a substance that had the potential to cause the victim’s cancer
- Individuals who were not exposed to the same cancer-causing agent did not develop cancer, making the cancer-causing agent the likely cause of cancer.
- The defendant was liable for the victim’s exposure to the cancer-causing agent
Contact the Personal Injury Lawyers at Wieand Law Firm, LLC Today!
If you believe that you or a loved one’s cancer is due to someone else’s negligent use of cancer-causing substances, contact the lawyers at the Wieand Law Firm, LLC today. Our attorneys will listen closely to your situation and discuss the legal options available to you. Call 215-666-7777 or send us a message via the online form to speak directly with an attorney.