Dry cleaning fluids generally consist of a chemical known as perchloroethylene, or PCE. This chemical is also known as tetrachloroethylene. While PCE has been commonly used as a dry cleaning fluid, it also has many other applications. PCE and its close cousin TCE (also known as trichloroethylene) are chlorinated solvents that have been used in New Jersey for decades. Spills and releases of PCE and other chlorinated solvents may result in harm to the environment. These chemicals may be stored in tanks or drums at a dry cleaning facility and these tanks may leak, resulting in discharges to the soil, and ultimately, groundwater. Groundwater contaminated by drying cleaning chemicals can travel short or long distances, and may impact homes, businesses, and water supplies in its path.
While dry cleaning technology has improved, there are many older dry cleaners situated throughout New Jersey from which release of PCE still occur. In addition, there are many PCE spill sites that have never been fully cleaned up, and where pollution still sits and risks contaminating nearby areas. Often, releases of dry cleaning chemicals are not detected for decades after they initially occur, allowing the material to spread great distances and potentially affect more individuals, businesses, and communities.
Even relatively small amounts of these chemicals can contaminate vast amounts of groundwater and drinking water. Contamination from PCE, TCE, its degradation products (including vinyl chloride), and other chlorinated compounds can be very difficult to remove from the environment, especially once it reaches groundwater or drinking water sources. Characteristics peculiar to these chemicals create challenging remediation scenarios, thereby presenting long-term health risks for individuals and businesses residing or operating in the vicinity of a release.
Chlorinated solvents like PCE and its degradation products can cause serious illness if they are released into drinking water supplies, or if they are emitted into the air or into stormwater systems. Degradation products refer to the chemical changes that a substance may undergo over time. For example, PCE breaks down into TCE, which breaks down into cis-1,2-DCE, which ultimately breaks down into vinyl chloride, a very potent and dangerous chemical. These are often called degradation products, breakdown products, or daughter products. Some of these chlorinated solvents, like vinyl chloride, are carcinogenic—meaning that they may cause cancer in people. In addition, PCE, TCE, vinyl chloride, and other chlorinated compounds are responsible for a list of many other kinds of personal injuries.
In addition to personal injury claims, lawyers representing individuals harmed by PCE and TCE must also consider issues such as vapor intrusion. Vapor intrusion occurs when solvents such as PCE and TCE become gaseous, rise from beneath the ground and get released through cracks in the foundation of buildings and contaminate indoor air, exposing people to these chemicals. While we knew little about vapor intrusion twenty years ago, science and regulations have caught up and now many cleanup laws require vapor intrusion analysis. However, many people are still not aware of a vapor intrusion issue until they have been exposed to harmful chemicals.
If you have been harmed by exposure to chlorinated solvents from a contaminated dry cleaning or other site, or if you fear that exposure may affect your health in the future, you should know your legal rights and ask a lawyer to help you evaluate your options. Take action now and call the Toxic Injury Lawyers. Our staff is courteous and responsive and our attorneys, who are highly-skilled, will fight tirelessly to deliver the justice you deserve. Our years of experience lead to results that provide lasting relief to people in need. Call now: 732-355-1311 or submit your case inquiry here.
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