In Merced, California, there is an area of half-empty industrial land sitting over a plume of contaminated ground water. Cleanup has been in progress there since the early 1990s, using a water treatment plant and infusion wells on the property.
Merck & Co. had a subsidiary nearby which caused the pollution. The main pollutant is Chromium 6 which had been used to preserve wood.
A lawsuit was filed in 2007 in a Fresno federal court, with over 2,000 plaintiffs. They claim that from drinking the water and using it for washing, they have suffered from:
- Respiratory problems
- Brain tumors
Attorneys for these plaintiffs have stated that the percentage of sick people in this local population is higher than normal. They claim that Chromium 6 has recently been linked to several health problems, including cancer and birth defects.
Merck’s lawyer, Stephen Lewis, does not argue that there is pollution present in the ground water or that it was caused by Merck’s subsidiary. But he does argue against the idea that it has necessarily made any local residents ill. He claims that Merck is not automatically responsible for local illness and that no causal relationship between the ground water and the illness of any specific people has been established.
He also claims that there is no proof that any of the plaintiffs drank the ground water, as it moved only a short distance from their site.
Chromium 6 is not the nutritional chromium available in health supplements.
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