Cancer, Birth Defects, Health Problems Plague Southern New Jersey Residents Exposed to Harmful Pollution Near Chemical Plants

Cancer and birth defects are just two of the serious health problems faced by nearby residents exposed to chemical pollution from southern New Jersey plants, recently filed lawsuits claim.

Victims were sickened by long-lasting chemicals known as PFAS compounds released by Solvay Specialty Polymers in West Deptford and DuPont’s Chamber Works facility in Carneys Point and Pennsville, according to the suits.

“It’s a witch’s brew,” Steven Phillips, a New York City attorney for the residents, told the Courier Post newspaper in New Jersey about the pollutants discharged by the chemical plants.

The companies, which face additional court challenges over alleged PFAS pollution, have denied any wrongdoing.

The newspaper said that a suit filed in January, cites a Penns Grove woman, 24-year-old Carly Corrar, who suffers from profound and permanent personal injuries, including physical and cognitive development delays, due to PFAS contamination at her childhood home in Pedricktown before her birth and during early childhood.

A second lawsuit filed January 28, seeks damages for a Logan couple, 56-year-old Tammy O’Leary and Corby Deese Jr., 61. It cites health problems including breast cancer for O’Leary and gastrointestinal disease and high cholesterol for both plaintiffs. Also, two suits filed last year allege a 42-year-old Logan woman and a 25-year-old Pedricktown man have suffered brain damage and other health problems due to PFAS exposure.

Phillips’ firm, Phillips & Paolicelli, expects to bring more lawsuits over the chemical emissions, he told the newspaper.  “Our clients are a growing number of people with severe personal injuries,” Phillips said.

In court filings seeking to dismiss the suit brought by 28 residents, lawyers for Solvay and DuPont argue the residents do not say when or how contaminants traveled many miles from the chemical plants to their homes. The lawyers also claim some residents waited too long to sue and that a two-year statute of limitations has expired.

A Solvay spokesperson told the Courier Post the firm is “vigorously defending the claims,” but does not comment on active litigation. A DuPont representative did not respond to the newspaper’s request for comment.

What Are PFAS Chemicals, and Why Are They Dangerous?

According to Earthjustice, toxic chemicals known as PFAS are found in everyday products like nonstick pans, food packaging such as microwave popcorn bags and fast-food wrappers, waterproof jackets and carpets to repel water, grease and stains. They’re also used in firefighting foam often used on military bases and at commercial airports. Even personal care products like waterproof mascaras and eyeliners, sunscreen, shampoo, and shaving cream can contain PFAS. They’ve also been detected in the drinking water supplies of major cities like New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

PFAS is short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. PFAS chemicals don’t break down easily, and they can stay in the body and the environment for decades. As a result, more than 95% of the U.S. population has PFAS in their bodies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

PFAS chemicals also are called “forever chemicals” because they do not naturally break down and have been found to accumulate in humans.

The CDC says that research involving humans suggests that high levels of certain PFAS may lead to increased cholesterol levels, decreased vaccine response in children, changes in liver enzymes, increased risk of high blood pressure or preeclampsia in pregnant women, decreases in infant birth weights and increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer.  Other sources say PFAS are linked to cancer, birth defects, liver disease, thyroid disease, plummeting sperm counts and a range of other serious health problems.

Cause for Concern: Health Problems, Birth Defects Linked to PFAS Exposure

A new study that checked American women’s breast milk for PFAS contamination detected the toxic chemical in all 50 samples tested, and at levels nearly 2,000 times higher than the level some public health advocates advise is safe for drinking water, according to The Guardian. 

The findings “are cause for concern” and highlight a potential threat to newborns’ health, the study’s authors told the newspaper. The peer-reviewed study was published in May in the Environmental Science and Technology journal. 

First-generation PFAS are so toxic that U.S. manufacturers largely phased them out by 2015, though U.S. law doesn’t prohibit companies from importing them. Now, against the advice of more than 200 international scientists, chemical companies have replaced first-generation PFAS with other chemicals in the PFAS family that studies have shown are also dangerous.

Experts suggest that pregnant women and mothers avoid greaseproof carryout food packaging, stain guards like Scotchgard, waterproof clothing that uses PFAS, and cooking products with Teflon or similar nonstick properties. However, manufacturers often do not disclose the chemicals’ use.

Their widespread use makes them difficult to avoid, and some experts are urging an outright ban of the entire chemical class, including those that the industry claims do not accumulate as much in humans.

How We Help Birth Defects Victims

Our alliance of birth defects victims attorneys has represented people like you affected by birth defects caused by exposure to dangerous chemicals like PFAS, aggressively fighting the corporate giants who failed to protect vulnerable workers and residents. If you or a loved one was exposed to chemicals while pregnant and now have a child who suffers from a life-altering birth defect, we can help. Contact us now to get justice with the help of our experienced birth defects attorneys.