Avoiding Soil and Water Contamination in the Home

Groundwater contamination usually arises when individuals have wells. In those circumstances, the ground aquifer is contaminated with the specific chemical or chemicals released by the responsible party. This material then develops into a plume and infiltrates the various well water sources.

Individuals that own the wells are then exposed to the chemicals by ingestion (drinking the water), skin contact (bathing with the water), and inhalation (breathing steam from the water). In addition to being exposed to groundwater contamination through wells, groundwater contamination can also result in areas of low water tables with atmospheric or air contamination in people’s homes. If the chemicals are volatile, such as gasoline or other materials, they may escape into people’s basements and may be trapped, thereby exposing the homeowner who may inhale the fumes.

Another source of chemical contamination is from soil. This can occur as discussed above with groundwater contamination, but can also occur when streams or other bodies of water are contaminated with heavy metals or chemicals. When areas flood these heavy metals and chemicals are deposited on an individual’s property and thus contaminate the soil. People can be exposed to these contaminants in the following ways: skin contact (walking on the soil or gardening); inhalation (creating dust in the yard or tracking dust into the home); and ingestion (eating vegetables grown in the soil).

Sources of Soil Contamination

While it would be impossible to list all the potential sources of chemical contamination, the following list will serve to illustrate typical contamination sources:

* Gas stations,

* Machine shops,

* Railroad yards and other railroad-related work sites,

* Chemical manufacturing plants,

* Incinerators,

* Dry cleaning stores,

* Chemical waste storage facilities,

* Any manufacturing plant that uses any type of cleaning solvents or gasoline based products,

* Oil refineries, and

* Landfills.

Potential Injuries from Soil and Water Contamination

Contaminants are likely to cause chronic health effects, or effects that occur long after repeated exposure to small amounts of a chemical. Examples of chronic health effects include cancer, liver and kidney damage, disorders of the nervous system, damage to the immune system, and birth defects. While it would be impossible to list all the potential injuries that can be caused by various chemical agents, the list below will serve to be illustrative of those conditions, that when coupled with appropriate exposure, could be caused by chemical contamination. The potential injuries from soil and water contamination include the following:

* Various forms of cancer (lung, bladder, brain, kidney, leukemia, lymphoma, skin cancer);

* Various forms of learning disability (ADD, ADHD, LD);

* Teratogenic effects (effects on the fetus when the mother is exposed before or during pregnancy);

* Respiratory effects (breathing difficulties, allergies and other similar conditions);

* Gastrointestinal effects (stomach conditions);

* Cardiovascular effects (heart problems);

* Hepatic effects (various liver conditions);

* Renal effects (various kidney effects including blood in the urine and other kidney problems); and

* Neurological effects (various nervous system disorders, including reflex malfunction and headaches).

If you have been exposed to soil and/or water contamination and have been injured, you may have a legal case.

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