US Rohm and Haas faces brain cancer lawsuit

22 September 2010 21:48  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--A trial has started regarding a lawsuit that a widow filed against Rohm and Haas, alleging that one of its US plants released carcinogens that caused her husband to die from brain cancer.

Rohm and Haas was unable to comment on Wednesday about the case because the judge instructed both sides not to do so, said Maureen Garrity, Rohm and Haas spokeswoman.

However, during a trial that started on Monday, Rohm and Haas had denied any link to the cancer cases, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The widow, Joanne Branham, filed the lawsuit in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County in Pennsylvania in May 2006. Before its acquisition by Dow Chemical, Rohm and Haas was based in Pennsylvania.

Branham sued Rohm and Haas, Morton International and Modine Manufacturing, companies that she accused were responsible for exposing her husband and other residents to carcinogens.

Branham's lawsuit was the first out of 32 similar lawsuits to reach trial status, according to an article by the Northwest Herald, a newspaper based in the area.

During the past 50 years, the companies had at one time or another released trichloroethylene (TCE), 1,1 dichloroethylene (1,1-DCE) and vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) from plants they operated roughly a mile (1.61 km) away from McCullom Lake Village, Illinois, a community of about 500 homes, Branham said.

Branham and her husband, Franklin Branham, had lived in McCullom Lake Village for more than 30 years, she said.

In May 2004, Franklin Branham was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer, Joanne Branham said. He died in June 2004 at 63.

Four other residents had contracted glioblastoma or oligodendroglioma, another rare form of brain cancer, Joanne Branham said. A fifth cancer patient, Scott Milliman, spent considerable time working in McCullom Lake Village as a police officer.

Branham alleged that the residents' brain cancer was caused by exposure from chemicals released from the plants.

From about 1962-1975, Morton dumped liquid chemical waste into a lagoon near its plant at 5005 Barnard Mill Road in Ringwood, Illinois, Branham said.

The plant made coatings, adhesives and sealants, according to an annual report published in 2004.

In 1984-1985, Morton installed groundwater monitoring wells at the site, which revealed high concentrations of TCE, 1,1-DCE and VCM among other volatile organic compounds, Branham said.

Morton itself attributed the contamination to the lagoon, to an accidental spill and to a tank-car spill from 1978, Branham said.

In 1991, Morton installed a system to clean up the groundwater - a move that Branham dismissed as ineffective because it never ran at full capacity.

Meanwhile, the Morton plant continued to release 1,1-DCE into the air, Branham said. In fact, she alleged that the Morton plant was the nation's second biggest source of 1,1-DCE air pollution.

Another source of contamination came from Modine's nearby plant at 440 Ringwood Road in Ringwood, Illinois, Branham alleged. That plant used volatile organic compounds, primarily TCE, in its operations.

In 1990 Modine found that the groundwater at its site was contaminated with TCE, cis-1,2-dichloroethene, 1, 1, 1 trichloroethane, 1, 1-DCE, toluene and VCM, Branham said

Modine later settled with Branham and the others. Terms were not disclosed, and Modine did not admit any liability in any way.

Huntsman, another company sued by Branham, was dismissed in March 2007.

Branham's lawyer, Aaron Freiwald, was not immediately available for comment.

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By: Al Greenwood
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