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Scientific, Environmental, And Public-Health Issues Of Woburn Toxic Trial

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In this paper I am going to talk and explain about the intriguing scientific, environmental, and public-health issues raised in the landmark case of Anne Anderson et al. versus W. R. Grace & Co. and Beatrice Foods, Inc. Anne Anderson, the mother of Jimmy Anderson was in search for answers in a small town 12 miles north of Boston called Woburn, Massachusetts.

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Anne’s son Jimmy who was 4 years old at the time was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood cancer – acute lymphocytic leukemia. Woburn has a legacy of being a center of industrial and chemical production since its founding in 1642. In the 1850’s it was known for leather tanning factories, in the early 1900’s new factories came into Woburn that were giving off chemicals into Woburn’s population of only 40, 000. Jimmy’s rare form of cancer was a big deal, Anne found out that it wasn’t only her son. She found out that twelve children in the same neighborhood as her at the same rare form of leukemia just like her son. Anne Anderson was leaning towards the idea that the Woburn water was the reasoning for all these kids getting ill. Most of the people in the area including doctors and city officials were in disbelief with her idea then, other health problems of family members started to happen like rashes, vision difficulties, miscarriages, headaches.

Anne’s proposal that the water was bad and causing the kids getting sick didn’t seem that crazy anymore. According to Seattleu, “In 1979, a local newspaper, reported that 184 buried barrels that had contained chemicals had been discovered near to the site where the City of Woburn had drilled two wells, G and H for drinking water. ” although “the chemical in the barrels didn’t match. However, the officials did find something else – dangerous levels of Trichloroethylene, TCE, and other chemical solvents. ” sixteen children have died it was time people needed to start taking actions. This is when Anne and the other families went to a young lawyer named Jan Schlichtmann. Jan at first was hesitant to take the case, later on he ends up taking the case. Even though he said he is taking the case the process defintally did not happen overnight it took two years before the suit was filed. The families’ lawsuit alleged two companies W. R. Grace & Company, of New York who was represented by Attorney William Cheeseman and Michael Keating and a tannery called the John J. Riley Tannery who was represented by Jerome Facher. They are being accused of improperly disposing of chemicals, contaminating two municipal wells, and causing the deaths of the children. With all the time passing by there was finally a case and a trial to come!

During the movie A Civil Action they reduced the amount of information that was in the actual case. One key point they did not include in the movie is the amount of witnesses that were brought into court to be examined. In the movie they put multiple people into one character so it was easier to follow. In the actual case there were 130 witnesses that were examined. Another key point is in the movie they only showed the courtroom in a couple scenes but in reality the trial was almost 80 days. The movie left out a lot of the court procedures. In addition they portrayed Mr. Cheeseman to be a coward who is not well respected, in reality he was a very intelligent man who was very smart and not “bullied”. The fourth key point that I find important is that they only mention the FDA a couple times in the movie, this is not correct the FDA had a major impact in this case and was very involved in it.

The last point that I believe is the most important point is there was a 3rd company involved in the case. UniFirst, they were not even brought up in the movie at all. In the actual case before the trial, UniFirst settled out of court for $1. 05 million. This led Schlichtmann and his team too fund for the upcoming trail. The Woburn Toxic Trial lead to many societal and environmental impacts. One major societal impact that was caused by the affected water was that sixteen kids ended up dying from a rare form of leukemia. From these companies dumping there chemicals into the waters, raised a lot of attention around the neighborhood and the community. Not only was it a tragic event that these kids died from these companies dumping there “poison” into the water, These chemicals affected the water and the environment around it. The water ended up catching on fire one night leading to these chemicals spreading throughout the air and around the area.

From the actual case the family’s got money from these companies for what they have done. This was a long dreaded case the made TV and took a very long time to come to an end. From the very start of the incident to the very end of the case it took a total of twelve years. The wells ended up closing in 1979 due to the chemicals. The EPA went to see the wells to do further water testing, when they went and did there testing they later discovered that there was widespread contamination northeast of the wells. At the time they did not find that the three companies were in the wrong but this definitely gave attention for the case to come.

15 July 2020

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