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A Mother is Suing EPA for a Chemical that Killed Her Son

Posted on Monday, January 21st, 2019 at 9:29 am    

Kevin Hartley died in 2017 while working
Photo credits to: Hartley Family

Wendy Hartley was once “cautiously optimistic” that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would ban numerous uses of a toxic chemical that killed her son. Now she’s suing the agency to ensure it happens.

Hartley met with the former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt in May to talk about the death of her son 21-year-old Kevin Hartley, a trained contractor who died in 2017 due to exposure to paint stripper fumes while refinishing a bathtub.

Even though the EPA under the Trump administration postponed banning methylene chloride in paint strippers, Hartley says that she and other environmentalists thought Pruitt was “receptive to what we had to say.”

The EPA announced the day after their meeting that they mean to finalize a ban that has been initially proposed under President Barack Obama. Pruitt reiterated that pledge during a Senate hearing a week later.

Hartley is one of the two mothers of men who died from the airborne toxic compound and are now suing the EPA. They made a team with the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families and Vermont Public Interest Research Group to file a lawsuit in the US District Court in Vermont on Monday.

The lawsuit stated a decision in December by the EPA to move along with the banning of chemical use by consumers, but still allow commercial consumers and operators to use the product, providing they undergo training.

This didn’t sit well with public health advocates who want to push a more comprehensive ban.  Liz Hitchcock, director of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families said that this is basically a breach of trust.

Hartley and the others argue the EPA is obligated under law to limit the use of any chemical that causes a risk of harm to one’s health. Researchers of the agency during the Obama administration deemed that it was too dangerous for most contractors to remove paint with methylene chloride. A total of 49 people in the United States died of exposure to the toxic chemical during paint and coat removal between 1976 and 2016, according to the EPA

A New EPA Administrator

Since July, acting chief Andrew Wheeler is in charge of the agency after the White House forced Pruitt to resign due to a number of investigations concerning ethics.

Safe Chemicals had sent a request to meet with Wheeler after his designation. The planned meeting did not happen due to issues with his schedule. The Environmental Defense Fund also requested a meeting in July, but that meeting didn’t happen either.

EPA spokesman John Konkus wrote via email that the acting administrator is looking forward to continuing to work with the EDF in reaching out on the regulation and for their help arranging a meeting with family members.

The holdup for this motion has caused three people in addition to Kevin Hartley to die of methylene chloride fumes. Manufacturers of the chemical have also publicly push the EPA to stop the ban. Wendy Hartley already sees a long court fight due to the influence of these manufacturers saying that she’s sure “they’re going to drag this out because that’s what the chemical industry wants.”

Many Americans die due to exposure of of harmful substances in their place of work

Working with Harmful Chemicals

Exposure to hazardous chemicals is one of the most common concerns American workers face. Different toxic chemicals pose a threat to human health and unexpected releases of these chemicals have been reported for years.

The Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) has a list of hazardous chemicals to help industries and employees identify these chemicals and ways to contain them.

Common Hazardous Substances

  • Acids
  • Caustic substances
  • Disinfectants
  • Glues
  • Heavy metals – lead, mercury, aluminium, and cadmium
  • Pesticides
  • Solvents
  • Paint
  • Petroleum products

Possible Side Effects of Exposures

Hazardous substances can be inhaled, splashed onto one’s skin or eyes or swallowed.

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Birth defects
  • Poisoning
  • Lung, kidney or liver disorders
  • Poisoning
  • Headaches
  • Chemical burns
  • Skin rashes
  • Nervous system disorders

Read more about hazardous substances and safety at Better Health.

Getting Help from a Trusted Law Firm

Many Americans die due to exposure of harmful substances in their place of work every year. Exposure to toxic chemicals due to negligence of an employer is one of the most common cases that is still a major concern today. If your loved one is one of these people and you want to get justice in their behalf, our lawyers at Williams Kherkher are always ready to help.

We’ve been serving Houston clients for years and helping them with cases such as carbon monoxide poisoning, wrongful death, and workplace accidents. Contact us today to get started.



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