Hazardous Materials Accidents

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines hazardous materials as those that are flammable, react or explode when mixed with something else, corrosive, or toxic. A person can be harmed if he or she touches, breathes in, eats, drinks, or otherwise comes into contact with such substances. As such, there are federal regulations for disposing of, delivering, or transporting such materials.

Such accidents may cause the death or injuries from exposure to the material, extensive property damage, fires, spills or contamination, required evacuations of public spaces, require a road, highway or facility closure, closing a road, highway or facility, and/or the possibility of more danger to property or people.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Hazardous Materials Information System, there were 167,448 incidents involving hazardous materials from 2000 to 2009. Among those incidents, there were 132 deaths, 2,750 injuries, and a total of $617,956,627 in damage costs.

Common Hazardous Substances

Both industrial and household products may contain hazardous materials. They include mold, paint, adhesives, solvents, cleaning products, detergents, and pesticides.

How Does a Hazardous Materials Accident Happen?

There are several ways that hazardous materials can injure or kill a person. For those who drive vehicles that move such materials from one location to another, traffic accidents can cause the material to be released. If the material leaks or ignites, or has the potential to do so, it has become a hazardous material accident.

Dangerous material can also be released or otherwise while it is being stored, loaded, unloaded or handled, as well as while being transported. This can occur because the material wasn't packaged properly, secured while being moved, or correctly separated from other problematic materials.

Improperly discarding hazardous waste can cause explosions in sewers or garbage trucks or might eat away at other materials, which can cause health or other problems.

Possible Consequences

Hazardous waste accidents can cause minor to severe injuries and may be fatal. Potential injuries include:

  • Respiratory illness, including breathing problems, coughing or sore throat
  • Clogged nasal and sinus passages
  • Lead poisoning
  • Eye problems such as irritated, burning, watery or red eyes, or trouble seeing.
  • Lung problems including cancer and shortness of breath
  • Skin Issues such as redness, irritation, or burns
  • Brain injuries including memory problems and cognitive impairment
  • Headaches
  • A suppressed immune system, which renders a person more susceptible to illness

What to Do if Injured

Always seek medical attention if necessary. Next, find an experienced hazardous material attorney, who can help you determine if you are entitled compensation for medical costs, injuries, damages from an employer if the accident happened because of an employer's recklessness or negligence, and more. If you or a loved one has been involved in a hazardous materials accident, call Altman & Altman at 617.492.3000 or 800.481.6199 toll–free, or contact us online for a free consultation.

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