Environmental Toxicology Experts Help Prove a Case

When a personal injury lawsuit or a tort case involves the possibility of people being exposed to some harmful and potentially lethal chemicals, lawyers need to call on environmental toxicology experts to help them build their case.

Environmental toxicology experts bank on specialized knowledge acquired through continuing professional education, along with years of invaluable experience. They carefully perform tests and, in much detail, document the methodology employed, as well as the results of it, for the court’s appreciation. An expert toxicologist also appears before a judge or jurors to explain his findings and give an expert opinion regarding the medical and scientific facts and assumptions of a particular case.

One major legal battle that heavily relied on the services of toxicologists is the case of the people of Hinkley versus Pacific Gas and Electric Company, brought to fame by a firm paralegal named Erin Brockovich. That case alleged – and proved through toxicology reports, among others – that PG&E have indeed exposed the Hinkley residents to the pollutant chromium 6. The landmark case landed an enormous $333 million settlement in 1996, and inspired a Hollywood movie starring Julia Roberts. More than that, it highlighted how science and experts were helpful in delivering justice before the court of law.

In any fight for justice that involves hazardous materials, no lawyer or plaintiffs can stand before judge and jury to prove their case without the help of an expert witness. Environmental toxicology experts can be their partners to achieve true justice.


A Look at Drugs in the Bloodstream

Traces of illegal substances found in a person’s blood are often red flags for a person who may be under suspicion by the police. Many illegal substances may be perceived as adding a bigger high to the person when the evidence points at more grim circumstances. It is up to a forensic toxicologist to discover which illegal substances are in a suspect’s bloodstream and how much has been ingested.


Analgesics like morphine can be found in your blood between six to eight hours after ingestion but take up to three days until it exits with the urine. Amphetamines, heroin, and codeine stay in the bloodstream for up to 12 hours and are out with the urine in no more than three days.

Longer Kick

Some drugs take a long time to stay in the blood and even longer to be flushed out in the urine, upping the chances of traces being detected if a suspect underwent a checkup. Crystal meth stays in the blood between 24 hours to 72 hours, depending on the method of administration, while being taken out in the urine in between three to six days. Cannabis takes the longest to leave the system– tetrahydrocannabinol lingers in the blood for two weeks and stays in your urine for the next month.

Determining the drugs found in the bloodstream can work in an investigation. They may even work as evidence for other related drug cases.

Forensic Toxicologists: Helping to Keep Roads Safe

There has never been a safer time to drive than now; freeways now have stoplights and all modern cars have fine safety features like multiple air bags. However, every 48 minutes, a person dies not for lack of safety but due to drunk drivers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 10,000 people died in 2010 because of alcohol-related crashes, with damages costing more than $51 billion.

Unfortunately, many people think they can still drive safely if they’ve only had a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. In reality though, even a small amount of alcohol can impair a driver’s senses and ultimately cause an accident. In fact, having a blood alcohol level (BAC) of just 0.08% will make you legally drunk in the eyes of the law.

Still, there are many factors that cause a person to register a 0.08% BAC even if they aren’t intoxicated. Taking certain medications will make you register as drunk even if you’d had only one drink. If you haven’t eaten prior to drinking, you’re also more likely to fail a Breathalyzer test. Other factors such as gender, weight, and body fat percentage can also throw off blood alcohol tests.

To help the courts decide on drunk driving cases, forensic toxicologists are often called upon as expert witnesses. They mainly analyze the defendant’s blood alcohol levels and explain to court the implications of the test’s results.

What Environmental Toxicology Does for Everyone

Environmental toxicology: those two words may sound rather intimidating and scary to some people. Yet because of that field, its specialists, the environmental toxicologists, can do things that the average person can’t readily do on a whim. So, what exactly do environmental toxicologists do to help the environment?

For one, environmental toxicologists can examine our atmosphere. For the past 40 years, some of these specialists have been focusing on man-made pollutants and their effects on our surroundings. They monitor the pollution levels, and its impact on human and animal life. Some of them have also found a connection between these pollutants and cancer.

In the same vein, environmental toxicologists also examine how chemicals speed up the emergence of cancers like leukemia, lymphomas, and melanoma. They investigate cases of cancers reportedly caused by chemicals including asbestos, pesticides, and solvents. Some of them even become activists to push for laws that regulate these chemicals and promote safety.

Some environmental toxicologists have also become expert witnesses to support or refute medical evidence. With their knowledge and training, these specialists also examine individuals affected by certain ailments, read medical reports, and test soil or water samples that may have affected these individuals. Through them, people can find the cause of their ailments and address them promptly.

Environmental Toxicology: Recent Discoveries on Chemicals in the Air

“These are the kinds of things that toxicologists like Dr. Nachman Brautbar MD deal with on a regular basis. Aside from pollutants, they also analyze pesticides, plastic materials, solvents, and even gasoline (especially in an oil spill) for toxicity. It is the job of toxicologists to accurately pinpoint the causes and effects of environmental diseases to humans, animals, and plants, as well as help shed light on environmental issues such as global warming.

For instance, recent environmental toxicology research now establish that reducing the amount of sulfur dioxide on the planet, which is one of the causes of global warming, can actually make things worse. This compound plays an important role in cooling the planet’s surface; removing it from the atmosphere will allow more sunlight and heat to enter the Earth. The best thing that can be done is to regulate, rather than completely neutralize, sulfur dioxide levels like putting high taxes on greenhouse gas emissions so that industr

Poisons and How They Affect the Body

While some elements are essential to all humans for survival or development, others have chemical compositions that are extremely harmful to the body. Professionals like forensic toxicologists are tasked with identifying and classifying these substances and their effects. Here are some examples of these potentially fatal substances:


This substance, whether as is or mixed into a compound, is a pretty potent poison. People mainly ingest it through water systems that are contaminated by the substance from nearby mines. Arsenic attacks the body’s metabolic process at the cellular level and may cause death and mutation.


Lead is the most versatile metal in the known universe, yet it also poses as one of the greatest chemical threats to man. This material is a bioaccumulative toxin, which basically means it can bide its time within your system, and when enough of it is already in your body, it strikes and leads to sterility, stunted growth, and other disorders.


Mercury is a common neurotoxin, which means it attacks the nervous system, thus affecting and impairing its functions. Most of the conditions caused by mercury ingestion (often via airborne channels) can be permanent. Aside from directly affecting humans, mercury poisoning can afflict marine life, infecting the fish that you eat, until the harmful poison is passed on to you.

Role of Environmental Toxicologists in Litigation

Environmental toxicology refers to the multidisciplinary branch of science that deals with the effects of chemicals on the environment. Toxicological reports are generally used to determine the possible health effects of toxic and chemical exposures, as well as need for future medical monitoring. As a result, environmental toxicologists are usually brought in as expert witnesses in class action lawsuits against organizations whose negligence led to chemical exposure.

If someone is inadvertently exposed to toxic or irritant chemicals, it can result in a myriad of medical conditions like upper and lower respiratory tract illnesses (asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, etc). Other times, it can also cause kidney failure, liver damage, cardiovascular problems, and so on. An environmental toxicologist can provide scientific evidence regarding the cause and effect of toxic exposure and the ensuing health effects.

Aside from serving as witnesses in lawsuits, environmental toxicologists can also help when it comes to creating and enforcing laws on air pollution and environmental protection. Their findings can be used as a basis to create new pollution control standards. Toxicologists also identify the severity of the damage to determine the best possible solution to the problem. Be it expert testimony or serving as consultants for the government, environmental toxicologists plays a vital role.