New Study Suggests That the FDA is Underestimating the Risks of Contaminated Seafood to Pregnant Women and Children
This blog has posted previously on the topic of toxic seafood as it related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. A recent study from an environmental watchdog group has found that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to underestimate the risk that pregnant women and children face from carcinogens that collect in seafood as a result of oil spills.
The study claims that because of assessment methods that are out of date, the FDA's standard for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) is off by 10,000 times. The FDA's assessment is based on estimates of how much seafood typical Gulf resident may consume over five years. A typical adult is presumed to weigh 176 pounds, while oil contaminates are assumed to disappear after five years. Researchers assert that the FDA's methods fail to consider the greater vulnerability of a developing fetus or child, fail to use more appropriate consumption rates, fail to include all relevant health end points, and fail to incorporate estimates of exposure duration and acceptable risk.
Researchers also claim that the methods for assessing risk should be updated so that they better reflect current risk assessment methods. Otherwise, pregnant women and children will continue to be at risk. The FDA disagrees with researchers' assessments, insisting that they have a comprehensive program for sampling seafood and that the seafood in the Gulf of Mexico is perfectly safe.
Even so, this new study and previous studies raise doubts. If you live near the Gulf of Mexico and your child has a birth defect, it is possible that toxins in seafood could be the cause. If you wanted relief to pay for medical bills and other expenses resulting from the birth defect, you might consider filing a toxic tort lawsuit against those responsible for contaminating the seafood. To be successful in a toxic tort lawsuit, you would need more than just a general "feeling" that an oil company, for example, was responsible. You would need actual evidence that that specific company caused an oil spill that contaminated the seafood you ate. You would also need evidence linking the contaminated seafood to your child's birth defect. It should be easier to find this evidence if you are a Gulf state resident than it would be if you lived farther away. Someone who lived in another part of the United States, and ate seafood that originated in the Gulf, might have a more difficult time proving a causal connection -- especially if that person did not eat seafood regularly. If you believe that contaminated seafood is responsible, however, and have the evidence to back it up, you could argue that the oil company had a duty to behave responsibly, breached that duty through carelessness, the breach led to your "injury" (your exposure to harmful contaminants), and the damage was your child's birth defect.