Pesticides are toxic chemicals whose very purpose is to kill pests. There are many types of pesticides, including herbicides (designed to kill weeds and to control vegetation), insecticides (designed to kill insects), fungicides (designed to kill fungus), rodenticides (designed to kill rodents), and a whole slew of other “cides” (designed to kill other living organisms). Pesticides are regularly used in huge quantities in agriculture, in industry, in waste treatment plants, to control vegetation and pests along rights of way, and in schools and homes. Unfortunately, these chemicals are not just toxic to pests; they are also toxic to human beings, especially to children.
Ingestion of pesticides is a major factor in medical emergencies and inadvertent ingestion is the cause of many deaths among infants and children, as well as adults. Bronstein, A.C., et al., “2008 Annual report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS): 26th Annual Report,” Clinical Toxicology 47:911-1084 (2009). Pesticides can also cause harm by being absorbed through skin and when their dusts or aerosols are inhaled.
Chronic exposure to pesticides is harmful and can result in different diseases and medical conditions, including various cancers. In a recent review of studies of cancer in the Agricultural Health Study Cohort, cancer was increased for 12 pesticides currently registered for use in Canada and/or the United States: alachlor, aldicarb, carbaryl, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, dicamba, EPTC, imazethapyr, metolachlor, pendimethalin, permethrin, trifluralin. Weichenthal, S., et al., “A Review of Pesticide Exposure and Cancer Incidence in the Agricultural Health Study Cohort,” Environ. Health Perspect. (Advance published ahead of print on May 5, 2010).
Leukemia is probably the most common cancer caused by pesticide exposure in children. Turner, M.C., “Residential pesticides and childhood leukemia: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” Environ. Health Perspect. 118(1):33-41 (2010). In adults, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the cancer that has been most strongly associated with pesticide exposure. See, Chiu, B.C., et al., “Pesticides, chromosomal aberrations, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” J. Agromedicine 14(2):250-255 (2009). Pesticide exposure has also been implicated as a cause of breast cancer, Steingraber, S., “What we know about pesticides and breast cancer,” Rev. Environ. Health 24(4):345-355 (2009), and prostate cancer. Landau-Ossondo, M., et al., “Why pesticides could be a common cause of prostate and breast cancers in the French Caribbean Island, Martinique. An overview on key mechanisms of pesticide-induced cancer,” Biomed. Pharmacother. 63(6):383-395 (2009).
For many years, people harmed from pesticide exposure could not obtain compensation from the companies who made these harmful chemicals, because courts held that claims for compensation were barred by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). However, in Arnold v. The Dow Chemical Company (2001) 91 Cal. App. 4th 698, 110 Cal. Rptr. 2d 722, a case litigated by the Metzger Law Group, the California Court of Appeal held that FIFRA does not preempt state law claims for design defect strict liability and breach of implied warranties. This ruling presaged the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Bates v. Dow Agrosciences LLC (2005) 125 S. Ct. 1788 that FIFRA does not bar claims against pesticide manufacturers for defective design or manufacture, negligent testing, or breach of warranty.
The Metzger Law Group represented approximately 1,000 Vietnam Veterans who developed cancers of the lymphatic system from exposure to Agent Orange, a defoliant used in the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, after years of litigation, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held the veterans’ claims were barred by the government contractor defense.
The Metzger Law Group has successfully litigated cases of pesticide production workers, pesticide applicators, and consumers who have been harmed by exposure to pesticides. Most of these developed lymphomas, multiple myeloma, and leukemias from pesticide exposure.