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Litigation Watch: 1-Bromopropane

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Recent investigation undertaken by U.S. governmental agencies has potentially planted the seed for an explosion of new litigation that would target products and industries that use the solvent known as 1-Bromopropane. This solvent has previously been narrowly linked to adverse health effects in humans, such as neuropathy, but the discussion has now widened to include more serious harms, including reproductive toxicity and even cancer. Once thought of as a friendly alternative to more harmful solvents, 1-Bromopropane may now have actually painted a larger target on the backs of employers. Manufacturers of products containing 1-Bromopropane and industries that make regular use of this solvent should be informed of this growing development.

1-Bromopropane is a solvent used in many applications, including degreasing, dry cleaning, spray adhesives, and aerosol solvents. With respect to the dry-cleaning setting, 1-Bromopropane originally garnished popularity as a friendly substitute for chlorofluorocarbons and perchloroethylene because of their adverse and deteriorating effects on the ozone layer.

Recent research now suggests that repeated and chronic exposure to 1-Bromopropane may be linked to cancerous development, among other adverse health effects. The National Toxicology Program 1-Bromopropane Fact Sheet classifies it as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." This classification is based on limited evidence of carcinogenicity from human studies, but positive evidence of cancerous development in animal studies. The Fact Sheet identifies animal studies involving rodents that found that inhalation exposure to this solvent caused tumor development in several organs, including the skin, lungs, and large intestine. Therefore, although 1-Bromopropane has not been designated as a known carcinogen to humans, its current classification shines a spotlight on any industry that makes or made regular use of this solvent, as well as any manufacture that utilizes this solvent as an ingredient.

Indeed, the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") published its own Fact Sheet in March 2016 warning that acute consumer exposure could result in adverse developmental and reproductive effects in women, and further warned that repeated and chronic occupational exposure could result in neurotoxicity, kidney, liver, reproductive toxicity, and lung cancer. The EPA now recommends that people minimize exposure to 1-Bromopropane by use of personal protective equipment, only using the product outside or in extremely well-ventilated areas, or to consider alternative products that do not contain 1-Bromopropane.

Furthermore, on August 23, 2016, the EPA posted the final peer review report from the May 24-25, 2016 meeting on the Draft Risk Assessment for 1-Bromopropane. The EPA requested the Chemical Safety Advisory Committee ("CSAC") to review and analyze its risk assessment of the toxicity of products containing 1-Bromopropane in commercial and consumer applications. The report generated by CSAC included a detailed analysis of the scientific and technical merit of the EPA's risk assessment. Ultimately, CSAC agreed with the methodology and metrics employed, and further agreed with the risk assessment conclusion that exposure to 1-Bromopropane presents high risk of cancer and non-cancer outcomes to workers and consumers alike.

While the report highlighted multiple applications of products containing 1-Bromopropane as well as multiple scenarios of exposure, much of the analysis focused on occupational exposure with respect to the dry cleaning industry. The report specifically noted concern with respect to smaller, "family owned" dry cleaning operations because they often utilize older facilities with poor ventilation, and generally are thought to employ fewer workers who work longer hours thereby increasing the potential and duration of inhalation exposure.

Given the increased attention from governmental agencies surrounding 1-Bromopropane and its potential adverse health effects on humans, it would not be surprising to see cases crop up in the near future targeting products that have 1-Bromopropane as an ingredient or industries, such as the dry cleaning industry, that heavily rely or have relied on the use of 1-Bromopropane.

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