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IBM and plaintiffs settle over TCE spill suit.

IBM and plaintiffs settle over TCE spill suit.

IBM Corp. will settle a lawsuit brought by 1,000 plaintiffs who alleged that toxic spills from the company’s former Endicott manufacturing plant caused illnesses and deaths, damaged property values and hurt businesses.

Both sides announced the settlement without revealing details of the agreement.

“IBM and the plaintiffs’ counsel have reached this agreement in an effort to resolve these cases without further burdensome and expensive litigation,” said the joint statement from the litigants.

The settlement brings to a close a more-than six-year saga in which IBM and those who claim they were harmed by the toxic releases waged a fierce legal battle on monetary rewards.

Affected residents, in a multi-million-dollar liability lawsuit against IBM, claimed the company should pay for the damage caused to residents around what once was the company’s main domestic manufacturing facility.

From 1935 to the mid-1980s, IBM used TCE (trichloroethylene) to clean metal parts in degreasers at its industrial campus in the Village of Endicott. In 1979, the company discovered some of the TCE had pooled in groundwater beneath the facility and appeared to be migrating.

Soil vapor intrusion

Contamination from soil vapor intrusion was detected by the late 1990s, and by 2002, IBM began testing the air at the request of state health and environmental agencies. Basement ventilation systems were eventually installed in more than 400 homes.

Settlement negotiations between the parties began last July, when state Supreme Court Justice Ferrous D. Lebous requested that representatives of both sides start meeting about an out-of-court settlement. Negotiations were apparently successful, culminating with Tuesday night’s release that the parties agreed to a settlement that satisfied both sides.

Lawyers of those who brought the suit against IBM said they will conduct meetings with clients over the coming weeks to present terms of the settlement.

IBM representatives said the company will continue the environmental cleanup that has been ongoing since the widening toxic plume was discovered.

Pumps spread throughout Endicott pull pollution from the ground through structures called recovery wells.

Over time, these wells have grown in number from four to more than 22, and to date, they have recovered more than 815,000 pounds of trichloroethylene and other toxic chemicals, with an unknown amount remaining beneath the village.

Company officials have never publicly explained IBM’s role in the disaster, and their legal position was that the company always handled chemicals responsibly and in accordance with standards of the day. They have not denied their former operations were a primary contributor to the pollution. They have not admitted it, either, nor have they offered a detailed explanation of the source of the problem.

Cleaning up industrial solvents

Representatives of the company said it was cleaning up the solvents from multiple industries that have operated in the region’s industrial corridor for generations. Endicott was also home to the vast shoe manufacturing empire of Endicott Johnson Corp., once the region’s largest employer.

However, the toxic-liability suit named only IBM as the source of the chemicals that tainted parts of Endicott’s commercial district and nearby residences.

IBM sold the 140-acre campus to Huron Real Estate Associates in 2002. Current tenants include i3 Electronics (formerly Endicott Interconnect), BAE Systems and Binghamton University, among others.

Lawyers for IBM have long contended it was following the responsible path, picking up the sizable costs for cleaning the spill and providing venting systems for properties designated at-risk for vapor intrusion.

Both sides scored initial victories as the case wound its way through the courts. Lower courts ruled against IBM’s motion to have the case dismissed, and ruled in favor of a plaintiff’s motion to have charges of negligence — the underpinnings of the case — tried before a jury.

But lower court rulings also eliminated or limited some aspects of the litigation, including the charge that the pollution constitutes a trespass in all cases, and the claim that IBM should be held accountable for monitoring the medical condition of all plaintiffs, including non-property owners.

IBM was also able to limit claims for medical monitoring to only people claiming other damages, such as illness or property loss. That eliminated claims for a potentially large group of plaintiffs — renters and children, for example — who may have been exposed but did not develop illnesses or suffer property damage.

Source: PressConnects

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Electronic cigarettes can produce more formaldehyde than regular cigarettes

Fumes from e-cigarettes can affect your health.

Fumes from e-cigarettes can affect your health.

A preliminary study in the New England Journal of Medicine raises a new worry about electronic cigarettes – exposure to formaldehyde.

Under certain conditions, taking 10 puffs from an e-cigarette would expose a user to about 2.5 times as much formaldehyde as he or she would get from smoking a single tobacco cigarette, according to the study.

Formaldehyde is the pungent chemical that was used to preserve the frog you dissected in your high school biology class.

It’s used as an industrial disinfectant and as an ingredient in permanent-press fabrics, plywood, glues and other household products, according to the National Cancer Institute.

It is also formed when the propylene glycol and glycerol in e-cigarette liquids and oxygen are heated together.

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer says formaldehyde can cause leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers the chemical a “probable human carcinogen.”

In experiments at Portland State University, researchers used a tank system type of electronic cigarette to produce nicotine vapor.

The e-liquid vapor was captured in a tube and analyzed using a technique called nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Each sample consisted of 10 puffs of vapor (at 3 to 4 seconds per puff) collected over 5 minutes.

When the e-cigarette was used on the “low voltage” setting of 3.3 volts, the researchers didn’t detect any formaldehyde in the vapor. However, when the device was on the “high voltage” setting of 5 volts, they measured an average of 380 micrograms of formaldehyde per sample.

Based on these results, the research team estimated that an e-cigarette user who vaped 3 milliliters of e-liquid per day would breathe in at least 14.4 milligrams of formaldehyde. The actual daily exposure is probably higher, they wrote, because their experiments failed to capture all of the vapor the e-cigarette produced.

For the sake of comparison, a 2005 study in the journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology estimated that a person who smoked a pack of 20 cigarettes would inhale 3 milligrams of formaldehyde in the process.

The researchers calculated that the lifetime cancer risk incurred by inhaling formaldehyde would be 5 to 15 times higher for long-term e-cigarette users than for long-term tobacco smokers.

Proponents of electronic cigarettes were quick to criticize the study for testing the devices under conditions that don’t reflect actual use.

If a person were to take 4-second puffs on a high voltage setting, they would experience a “very harsh and awful taste,” Bill Godshall, an advisor to the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Assn., said in a statement distributed by the American Vaping Assn.

Gregory Conley, the group’s president, added that e-cigarette users take shorter puffs as they increase the voltage on their devices. “These are not settings that real-life vapers actually use,” he said.

But study coauthor James Pankow, a chemistry professor and expert on cigarette smoke dangers at Portland State University, said the line between e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes was growing fuzzier by the day.

“No one should assume e-cigarettes are safe,” he said in a statement. “For conventional cigarettes, once people become addicted, it takes numerous years of smoking to result in a high risk of lung cancer and other severe disease; it will probably take five to 10 years to start to see whether e-cigarettes are truly as safe as some people believe them to be.”

Source: Los Angeles Times

Concerned about exposure to fumes or chemicals at work? Electrocorp offers a wide range of industrial-strength air cleaners with activated carbon and HEPA filters to remove harmful airborne contaminants. Contact Electrocorp for more information: 1-866-667-0297.

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