Though environmental regulation began in earnest in the 1970s and 1980s, especially regulations concerning toxins and the responsibility of corporations for the use of those toxins, there are still plenty of these toxins around. Asbestos was recognized to be hazardous to health in the 1920s and 1930s, but asbestos was not banned until 1989.
We’ll take a look at some of the most common and most dangerous environmental toxins that have graced store shelves, homes, and everyday items.
1. PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) – An industrial chemical that has been banned in the United States for decades. It can cause cancer as well as impaired fetal brain development. The primary source of PCBs in the United States is farm-raised salmon.
2. Pesticides – DDT, a compound formerly used in many pesticides geared towards killing mosquitoes was banned in 1972. This chemical can affect neurological development, diabetes, and has been linked to breast cancer.
3. Perchlorates – Perchlorates are salt compounds that have many industrial uses – from thyroid medication to rocket fuel. However, they can block iodine uptake, impair thyroid function, and can be especially dangerous to unborn children. Perchlorates are primarily found in the water supply near military bases and chemical plants but can also be introduced into the environment by fireworks and fertilizers.
4. Molds and Fungal Toxins – Molds are fungi that are so common they are almost ubiquitous in warm, humid areas. For many homes, it is not a question of whether mold is present, but how much mold. While most mold spores are basically benign; high concentrations can cause respiratory issues. However, “black mold” can contain dangerous mycotoxins with only limited exposure. Risks include cancer, heart disease, asthma, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes.
5. Asbestos – A naturally occurring fibrous silicate material that was widely used for its insulation and heat resistance properties. However, asbestos has an insidious nature – its fibers, when inhaled, can cause the rare lung cancer mesothelioma. The Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of asbestos in 1989, but it can still be found in the wiring and insulation of particularly old homes and buildings.
6. Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs) – BFRs are available in about 75 different types and are used to inhibit the flammability of certain materials, from clothing to furniture. However these BFRs do not stay on these materials; they filter into our environment and are absorbed and then stored in fat tissue. Long-term accumulation can cause disruption of the endocrine system, reproductive system, immune system, and has been linked to cancer.
These are just a few of some commonly occurring environmental toxins in the United States. In addition to these common ones, there are many more rare ones you could have been exposed to if you live in a contaminated area or work with these chemicals.
Toxic waste doesn’t have to be a liquid leaking from a barrel to be a problem. Toxins can hide in plain sight. If you believe that you have been exposed to these toxins, or believe that you have developed a condition related to the exposure of any toxin, contact an attorney to discuss your options.