Hat Tip To Ed! — Merck Chromium 6 Verdict, Act I, Scene II — Air Contamination

Ed has a good rundown on the story, here (H/T!) — but this is only the curtain on Act I of a three act play. [I would have guessed (in fact, did guess) that the jury would find water contamination — but it did not. It found air-borne contamination. Fascinating.]

Now, a second jury will be selected to determine whether the residents of the Beachwood subdivision were injured by the air-borne hexavalent chromium. Then, assuming they were, yet another jury will decide the damages Merck and the others will owe to the residents. So we are still at least a year away from a final outcome here, in my estimation. Here’s Ed:

. . . .After two months of testimony, a federal jury found a former Merck unit contaminated the air and water in a central California subdivision, potentially exposing thousands to a cancer-causing chemical known as hexavalent chromium – the same chemical that was made famous in the movie about Erin Brockovich, the Associated Press reports.

The jury decided hazardous levels from a manufacturing plant spread into the air where residents of Merced’s Beachwood subdivision could have been exposed for 25 years. The residents could have been exposed through water in an irrigation canal, where they swam and fished, and through floodwaters, which flooded the subdivision in 2006 and picked up contaminated soil from the plant (see the lawsuit). The chemical, by the way, is also known as Chromium 6, a carcinogen linked to cancer and birth defects. . . .

[AP story:] The air is really the most significant pathway when it comes to hexavalent chromium contamination, because the inhalation of the chemical is so dangerous,” said attorney Mick Marderosian, who represents 2,000 plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “It is a 1,000 times more potent than ingestion through drinking water. And it impacts many more people.”

Marderosian said the verdict sends a message about corporate responsibility.

“Companies should not conduct themselves like this,” Marderosian said. “When they impact the environment, they should do the right thing. In this case they didn’t and the jury picked up on that. . . .”

We will keep you posted — bad news for Merck, even though it vows an immediate appeal.


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