The Role Toxic Torts Play in Product Liability

January 2, 2023

Thanks to advancements in manufacturing, medicine, and technology sectors, consumers today have access to a wide variety of products in their daily lives. Unfortunately, some of these products are unsafe and may even cause severe illnesses. Other times, dangerous chemicals or substances leak into the air or groundwater to cause serious harm. 

If you or a close loved one suffers a toxic injury caused by a dangerous chemical or drug, you can file a toxic tort lawsuit against the liable parties. Keep reading as this article discusses how toxic torts influence product liability litigation. 

What Are Toxic Torts?

A toxic tort is a social wrong in which a person is harmed or injured after exposure to a toxic substance, such as a chemical, pesticide, or pharmaceutical drug. Exposure to dangerous substances can happen anywhere, including at home, at work, or in one's general environment.

The wrongdoers in toxic tort cases usually have been careless or negligent and avoided accountability. For example, a product manufacturer with toxic chemicals may have failed to warn users of the dangers of using their product. In this scenario, you can sue the chemical company for negligence if the product harms you. 

What a plaintiff must prove to receive damages in a toxic tort action usually differs depending on the level of exposure, the state they are in, and the legal theories involved. But in general, they should prove the following to sustain a case:

  • The chemical or substance involved was harmful
  • They were exposed to the harmful chemicals
  • The chemical exposure caused their injury or harm 

Because toxic torts from pharmaceutical drugs or environmental products often affect thousands of people, they are often subject to class actions called mass tort cases. Even individual actions involving toxic substances in the workplace can involve multiple plaintiffs. 

Examples of Toxic Torts

Some common examples of toxic torts that cause serious harm to people include the following:

Lead Poisoning

Lead is a naturally occurring, highly toxic metal that has largely been used in paint, batteries, ammunition, gasoline, and plumbing materials like pipes. The use of lead in residential housing was banned by the federal government in 1978, but you can still find lead today in food, air, water, and soil. 

You can be exposed to lead in various ways, including:

  • Eating food from lead-soldered or lead-glazed containers
  • Ingesting lead-contaminated water or dust
  • Inhaling lead particles produced by burning materials containing lead (i.e., during recycling or smelting)
  • Working in an environment that contains lead

While lead is harmful to people of all ages, it's especially risky to young children as their bodies tend to absorb more lead. Their brains and nervous systems are also more sensitive to the effects of lead. 

Some of the effects of lead on children include:

  • Brain damage
  • Slowed growth
  • Learning and behavioral problems
  • Headaches
  • Hearing impairment

For adults, lead poisoning can cause:

  • High blood pressure
  • Damage to the reproductive system
  • Memory problems
  • Nerve disorders
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Difficulties during pregnancy
  • Anemia


Before the risks associated with asbestos became known, this naturally occurring mineral was used in many construction projects. Unfortunately, people exposed to this substance develop serious health problems like mesothelioma, a lethal and rare cancer that invades the lungs and other organs. 

While the use of asbestos in construction projects has been banned today, it is still used to manufacture many everyday products. For example, some talc-based products such as cosmetics, makeup, and baby powder have been found to contain traces of asbestos, posing severe health risks to their users. In August 2022, Johnson & Johnson announced it would stop selling its talc baby powder products as of 2023 after multiple users filed lawsuits linking it to asbestos and cancer diagnoses. 

Apart from mesothelioma, other issues that you may experience after asbestos exposure include:

  • Persistent, long-term cough
  • Pain or tightness in the chest
  • Swallowing problems
  • Lack of appetite and weight loss
  • Clubbing (widening of the toes and fingertips)
  • Asbestosis (breathing and lung scarring complications)

One major problem with asbestos-caused illnesses is that they can take longer to manifest. For example, mesothelioma cannot be easily detected in its early stages, so most patients are diagnosed when it's in the advanced stages. By then, it may not be possible to remove cancer. 

If you are exposed to asbestos and have reasons to believe you are at risk, you have the right to explore toxic torts litigation. However, establishing causality between chemical exposure and your injury can be difficult, so seek legal advice from a toxic torts lawyer before filing your claim.  

Dangerous Pharmaceutical Drugs

You turn to pharmaceutical drugs to relieve your symptoms and improve your health when unwell. Unfortunately, some drugs that are supposed to aid in your healing have the opposite effect. 

Some drug manufacturers rush their products to market, so they can begin to make profits. Regulatory agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) typically rely on the research the drug manufacturer provides to approve their drug. If this research is faulty, a dangerous drug may end up on the market. 

Sometimes, drugs have manufacturing defects or flaws. For example, a drug may contain side effects that customers are not properly informed of because the manufacturer did not conduct adequate research before releasing the drug to the market.

How Do Torts Affect Your Product Liability Case?

Tort law is based on fault-based principles, meaning if one party's negligence led to another person's injury or damage, they could be held liable for said harm. Negligence occurs when someone fails to act with reasonable care towards others, such as failing to warn consumers about potential risks associated with using their products. In essence, torts form the basis of establishing who is at fault and, therefore, legally responsible for any injuries caused by defective products.

When filing a product liability lawsuit against a manufacturer or seller, plaintiffs must demonstrate that there was some degree of fault on behalf of these companies, whether through negligence (failure to warn), strict liability (liability without proof of negligence), or breach of warranty (not meeting stated promises or guarantees).

Do You Need Help With Your Claim?

Suppose you suffer from injuries caused by exposure to, ingestion, or inhaling toxic substances. In that case, you may be entitled to compensation for lifelong health care, medical bills, loss of income, pain, suffering, and other losses. You can also file a wrongful death claim if a loved one has died from the dangerous substances. 

Determining who to file the claim against can be tricky, and multiple defendants may be involved. You will also need substantial evidence to prove your claims. For these reasons, reach out to our experienced toxic torts attorneys at McEldrew Purtell. We will walk you through your available legal options and help you determine the evidence to build a strong claim. 

Contact us at (215) 545-8800 for a free initial consultation.