EPA Employees Win Verdict Against Building Owner
Reprinted from Informed Consent, May/June 1994
UPdate Summer 1994

A Washington DC Superior Court Jury has awarded five Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees a total of $948,000 for injuries sustained as a result of indoor air pollution in Waterside Mall (90-CA-10594 DC Superior Court).

The employees were exposed to a number of volatile organic compounds offgassing from materials used for renovating the mall, including new carpet containing the chemical 4-PC and paints containing isocyanates.  The verdict should also encourage more responsible behaviour on the part of landlords.

For instance, the Waterside landlords had turned off the ventilation system during working hours and failed to properly maintain it even after numerous and persistent complaints.

The plaintiffs developed multiple chemical sensitivities with chronic symptoms of headaches, nausea, flu-like symptoms, respiratory problems, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, and joint and muscular problems.  These symptoms in various combinations are provoked and exacerbated when the individuals are further exposed to low levels of petrochemicals found in such every day products as perfumes, cleaners, carpet, exhaust fumes, and particle board furniture.

Objective evidence of injury was obtained from a variety of tests including single photo emission computed tomography (SPECT) scans, in-depth immune profiles assessing the presence of autoimmunity and other immune markers indicating an activated immune system (such as TA1 cells), and neuropsychiatric and respiratory examinations.

“The verdict will obviously not fully compensate the victims whose lives have been marred by devastating chronic illness and recurrent symptoms,” stated Bill Hirzy, Ph.D., speaking as president of EPA Local Union NFFE 2050.

Nevertheless, the decision represents a precedent in the fight against indoor air pollution and may open the door for others seeking legal redress.  Both sides of the case have filed post-trial evidentiary motions that could affect the damage award, and appeals are also possible.

Informed Consent
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