There are tens of thousands of different industrial chemicals manufactured, stored and transported
throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world. Each substance has different toxicological
properties and physical characteristics. Some industrial chemicals can pose significant
health hazards (carcinogens, non-cancer causative agents, reproductive hazards,
corrosives or agents that affect the lungs or blood, etc). Some pose no intrinsic
health hazards but nonetheless pose physical hazards (flammable, combustible, explosive
The time that such agents
persist in the environment following release depends on many variables. These include
the quantity released, the method of release and the state of the chemical (gaseous,
liquid or solid), chemical stability and permeability, weather conditions (wind
speed, rain, temperature), ability to persist in different mediums (air, soil, water)
and other factors.1
All of these factors must be taken into account in an objective toxicological
exposure assessment. Adverse health effects from toxic industrial chemicals vary widely. Some chemicals
are highly toxic and may rapidly affect exposed individuals, whereas others may
cause reproductive damage or induce carcinogenic reactions that may not appear for
many years. Information related to how some chemicals affect humans and symptoms
of exposure can sometimes be found in material safety data sheets (MSDS) or chemical
information cards. OSHA (the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration) provides
specific guidelines for disclosures of adverse health effects with respect to exposures
as well as "best practices" for treating exposure victims.2
Only an objective toxicological exposure assessment can accurately quantify
potential health impacts with respect to industrial chemicals. The following partial
list represents common industrial chemicals and contaminants with which TCAS
has gained extensive experience over a period of more than 34 years. TCAS
has regularly performed toxicological assessments, produced written reports and/or
provided expert testimony with respect to exposure, adverse health effects and/or
demonstrating or refuting causation subsequent to being retained by defendants,
plaintiffs, prosecutors, state attorney generals, public defenders' offices and
U.S. Attorneys' offices. Please
contact our office for information concerning any industrial chemical not
Click on any substance to view the corresponding entry.
Click to view other types of hazardous substances.
Show all results for "Acids"
Acids are perhaps the most common of all industrial chemicals and are also essential
components for normal body functions in humans and animals. Acids can generally
be grouped into two classes: "strong" and "weak." Due to the
extraordinarily broad scope of acidic compounds, there are few general rules with
respect to the impacts of ingesting, inhaling or coming into contact with acids.
Whereas strong acids and some concentrated weak acids are corrosive, there are exceptions
(such as carboranes and boric acid). Additionally, some substances containing acid
have intrinsically hazardous properties that may be quite different than those of
the acid component alone. For example, in a TCAS case study involving phosphoric
acid, Dr. Sawyer demonstrated that the plaintiff's exposure to a cleaning
product did not contribute to her injury and thus refuted causation in this particular
matter. Thus, in any exposure scenario involving acids, each substance must be assessed
according to its concentration, chemical form and specific properties.
NIOSH (the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) publishes detailed
information on permissible exposure limits, chemical characteristics, physical properties
and health hazards for acids.3 NIOSH also
provides recommendations for medical surveillance, respiratory protection, personal
protection and sanitation practices for specific acids governed by Federal occupational
safety and health regulations. Additionally, the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet)
published by manufacturers provides information regarding acute and chronic health
effects, including hazard identification, methods for treating exposure, physical
and chemical properties, stability, reactivity and toxicological data (if available).
TCAS has performed toxicological assessments in cases involving acids in
both individual and industrial matters. Please contact our
office for additional information.
Show all results for "Corrosives"
Corrosives attack and chemically damage exposed body tissues. Although many corrosive
substances are acidic (see "Acids" above), some corrosives are classified
as bases or caustic alkalis. These include such substances as ammonium hydroxide,
potassium hydroxide (caustic potash), sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) and others.
Many common non-acidic cleaning products have corrosive properties and a wide range
of substances in common use exhibit corrosive characteristics. For example, glutaraldehyde
(used as a disinfectant and sterilizing agent in medical and dental settings) is
harmful if inhaled or swallowed, can be irritating to the respiratory tract, eyes
and skin, may cause permanent eye injury and can cause severe allergic skin reactions.4 Similarly, lye (sodium hydroxide, also known as
caustic soda) is an inorganic, highly caustic metallic base and alkali salt of sodium. It
can cause severe burns in all tissues that come in contact with it. Low-level inhalation
as dusts, mists or aerosols can cause irritation of the nose, throat, and respiratory
system. Higher levels may cause permanent damage.
Corrosives can be toxic by all routes of exposure (dermal, inhalation and ingestion).
Tissue damage may occur rapidly or very slowly depending on concentration and chemistry.
Depending on the precise chemistry and concentration, acute symptoms can range from
mild irritation to immediate destruction of body tissues. Chronic exposure to corrosive
substances can cause a wide range of adverse health effects, including scarring,
respiratory ulceration and nervous system damage. In some cases corrosives (such
as sodium hydroxide) have been reported to be indirect causative agents of more
serious diseases (such as cancer) resulting from tissue destruction and scar formation.5 TCAS has in-depth experience in interpreting
laboratory test results and assessing toxicological issues for a wide range of corrosives.
contact our office for additional information.
Show all results for "Solvents"
Organic and chemical solvents are primarily used as cleaning agents but have many
other uses as well. Common solvents include tetrachloroethylene in dry cleaning,
toluene and turpentine in paint thinners, acetone, methyl acetate and ethyl acetate
in nail polish removers, hexane and petrol ether as cleaning agents, citrus terpenes
in detergents, ethanol in perfumes, etc. These are just a few of the thousands of
different types of solvents used in both industrial applications and consumer
Health hazards associated with solvent exposure include cancer, nervous system toxicity,
reproductive damage, liver and kidney damage, respiratory impairment and dermatitis.6 Organic
solvents can be especially problematic as many have been classified as carcinogens
and/or causative factors in non-cancer health effects. Organic solvents recognized
as carcinogens include benzene, carbon tetrachloride and trichloroethylene (TCE).
Toluene, tetrachloroethylene, and n-hexane are classified as neurotoxins; 2-ethoxyethanol,
2-methoxyethanol and methyl chloride are associated with reproductive disorders.
Additionally, different classes of chemicals can be used as organic solvents, including
aliphatic hydrocarbons, aromatic hydrocarbons, amines, esters, ethers, ketones,
and nitrated or chlorinated hydrocarbons.7 All of these solvents have specific toxicological
impacts and their documented adverse health effects must be precisely quantified
when conducting a toxicological exposure assessment based on dose, exposure intervals,
routes of exposure and other investigative factors.
Solvents are not merely hazardous as toxic agents in isolated exposure cases. Persistent
groundwater contamination from solvents is a significant problem in the U.S. and
a number of Superfund sites continue to be engaged in long-term remediation efforts.
For example, the Lockwood groundwater plume in Billings, Montana has been a significant
source of toxic contamination for many decades (it was not until 1986 that municipal
personnel discovered benzene and chlorinated solvents in their water supply). The
primary source of contamination was from a company that used industrial solvents
and steam to clean tanker truck trailers, discharging wastewater to a septic system
and drain field. This wastewater eventually collected into a plume of contamination in the
Producing an objective toxicological assessment of widespread solvent contamination
can involve assessing health risks to an entire community. In the case of groundwater
contamination, hydrological data may be required to accurately assess the behavior,
migration, transport and fate of underground contamination. By collecting the necessary
laboratory data, compiling the available human studies, performing the required
dose calculations and strictly applying the prevailing peer-reviewed and regulatory
assessment methodologies, the expert toxicologist can provide scientifically-credible
opinions with respect to adverse health risks, site remediation, the potential need
for medical monitoring and other pertinent toxicological issues. Please
contact our office for additional information.
Show all results for "Trichloroethlyene"
TCE (1,1,2-trichloroethylene) is a colorless, transparent liquid used as
a degreaser, paint stripper, adhesive solvent and additive in paints and varnishes
as well as in the manufacture of other chemicals. TCE has been a long-standing historical
contaminant of groundwater in many residential areas. Following U.S. EPA (2005b)
"Guidelines for Carcinogen Risk Assessment," TCE is characterized as
"carcinogenic to humans" by all routes of exposure. This conclusion
is based on convincing evidence of a causal association between TCE exposure in
humans and kidney cancer.9 TCE exposure can
also augment the toxicity of other chemicals through exposure to some of TCE's metabolites.
This means that the expert toxicologist must also consider the cumulative effects
of TCE along with other environmental contaminants.10
Toxic Exposures page illustrates the various pathways used to calculate cumulative
TCE dosage in a toxicological exposure assessment. Additionally,
TCAS was recently retained to conduct a formal toxicological analysis in
a well-publicized case involving a lawsuit filed against a manufacturing company
for allegedly contaminating the local water supply with TCE. This
trichloroethylene case study illustrates how exposure evidence, historical
factors, a well-constructed residential questionnaire and a toxicological risk assessment
can significantly impact an outcome in toxic tort litigation. Please
contact our office for additional information.
Show all results for "Vinyl Chloride"
Vinyl chloride (also known as chloroethene, chloroethylene, ethylene monochloride
or monochloroethylene) is a colorless gas with a mild, sweet odor. It can exist
in liquid form under high pressure or at low temperatures. The majority of vinyl
chloride produced in the U.S. is used to make PVC (polyvinyl chloride), from which
many different plastic and vinyl products are made including pipes, wire, packaging
materials, etc. Some vinyl chloride is used in furniture and automobile upholstery,
wall coverings, housewares and automotive parts. In the past vinyl chloride was
used as a refrigerant.11
Vinyl chloride is carcinogenic and U.S. EPA has classified vinyl chloride as a "Group
1 Known Human Carcinogen." Acute (short-term) exposure symptoms include dizziness,
drowsiness, and headaches. Chronic (long-term) exposure through inhalation and oral
exposure can result in liver damage. Cancer is a major concern from exposure via
inhalation, as vinyl chloride exposure has been shown to increase the risk of hepatic anglosarcoma, a
rare form of liver cancer in humans.12
Although the majority of vinyl chloride exposures tend to be occupational
in nature, there have been numerous cases of vinyl chloride contamination in groundwater.
TCAS recently conducted a
health risk assessment of a plume of groundwater contaminated with vinyl chloride
and TCE. Other cases of vinyl chloride contamination continue to be uncovered in the U.S., such as
the 2015 Marion County vinyl chloride groundwater plume in Indianapolis, Indiana.13
Such contamination can impact large numbers of residents who depend on
groundwater as their primary drinking water source. TCAS has been retained
in numerous cases involving vinyl chloride contamination including large-scale releases
from chemical facilities, refineries and other sources. Please contact our
office for additional information.
Notes and References
- U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, "Toxic Industrial Chemicals (TICs) Guide," September, 2014.
- U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, "Best Practices for Hospital-Based First Receivers of Victims," January, 2005.
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Occupational Health Guidelines for Chemical Hazards," Publication Number 81-123, June, 2014.
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Glutaraldehyde - Occupational Hazards in Hospitals," Publication Number 2001-115, June, 2014.
- ATSDR, Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine, ToxFAQs for Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH)," April, 2002
- U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, "Solvents," 2016.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Organic Solvents," December, 2013.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Lockwood Solvent Ground Water Plume," April, 2016.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Trichloroethylene (CASRN 79-01-6), Evidence for Human Carcinogenicity," IRIS, September, 2007.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Health Assessment Document for Trichloroethylene Synthesis and Characterization," August, 2010.
- ATSDR, Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine, "Toxicological Profile for Vinyl Chloride," July, 2006.
- ATSDR, "Vinyl Chloride,"
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "West Vermont Drinking Water Contamination, Indianapolis, IN," April, 2016.
- Montage of public domain thumbnail images: USGS, USDA Hazardous Waste Operations, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Keith Beard, Pawel Jagielski, Nino Satria
- Acids, USGS, Geochemical Sediment Analysis Procedures
- Corrosives, Environmental Health and Safety
- Solvents, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "Industrial Solvents
- National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, "Trichloroethlyene"
- Toxnet, "Vinyl Chloride"