Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are synthetic organic chemicals that are harmful to people and the environment. The EPA lists PCBs as a known carcinogen or cancer-causing agent. Although PCBs are no longer manufactured in the United States, people can still be exposed to them through the environment and in the workplace, since PCBs can exist in the environment for decades. PCBs can exist in liquid, solid, or vapor form, and they are usually pale yellow or colorless.
Adverse health effects that can result from PCB exposure include cancer, reduced ability to fight infection, low birth weights, and learning difficulties. In addition, PCB exposure has reportedly been linked with thyroid disorders, liver abnormalities, cardiovascular disease, and skin lesions. The severity of the risk is connected with the degree of toxicity of the PCB and the extent of an individual’s exposure. In other words, prolonged exposure to a particularly toxic PCB may result in more serious health consequences.
A common cause of PCB exposure is eating fish caught in contaminated waterways. Once ingested, PCBs can remain in the body for years, stored in the fat and liver. Infants can be exposed to PCBs through the breast milk of an affected mother. As a result of the risk posed by eating certain fish, advisories have been issued, limiting the frequency with which certain fish can be safely eaten. For instance, the EPA has issued the following guidance regarding the frequency with which fish from the Hudson River should be ingested:
SPECIFIC HUDSON RIVER ADVISORY FOR EATING SPORTFISH 1
|Women of child bearing age, infants and children under the age of 15 should not eat any fish from the Hudson River south of Sherman Island Dam (near Glens Falls).|
|Stretch of River||Species||Recommendations||Chemical|
|Sherman Island Dam downstream to Feeder Dam at South Glens Falls||Carp||Eat no more than one meal per month||PCBs|
|Hudson Falls to Troy Dam||All species||Eat none||PCBs|
|Troy Dam south to bridge at Catskill||All species except Alewife, American shad, blueback herring, rock bass and yellow perch Alewife, blueback herring, rock bass and yellow perchAmerican shad(general advisory)||Eat noneEat no more than one meal per monthEat no more than one meal per week||PCBsPCBsPCBs|
|Bridge at Catskill south to Verazanno Bridge including Arthur Kill and Kill Van Kull.||American eel, Atlantic needlefish, bluefish, carp, goldfish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, rainbow smelt, striped bass, walleye, white catfish and white perch.Blue crab–hepatopancreas (mustard, tomalley, or liver)|
|Eat no more than one meal per monthEat no more than six crabs per week.Eat none|
|Dobbs Ferry south to Greystone||American eelOther Species||Eat noneSee advisories for Hudson River south of Catskill (above)||PCBsPCBs|
If you suspect that you or a family member has been exposed to PCBs, you should consult with a physician immediately. In addition, it may be in your best interests to seek the counsel of an experienced attorney, who can advise you on whether you may be able to recover your damages through a lawsuit. Some manufacturers and distributors of PCBs knew for years that PCBs were hazardous, yet they continued to produce them. In other words, even though they were aware of the negative health implications relating to their products, they chose to keep the public in the dark in order to protect their own profits. In such cases, you may be entitled to collect from the responsible manufacturer your medical expenses, lost wages, and damages for pain and suffering. In some cases, punitive damages, which exceed your actual losses and are designed to punish the wrongdoer and deter future similar bad conduct, are available as well. Your personal injury lawyer can advise you on what damages may be recoverable in your case.
1 Source: Environmental Protection Agency website
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