Via America’s Lawyer: As if our country’s waterways weren’t already contaminated enough by PFAS, another toxin called Trichloroethylene (TCE) has seeped into sources of drinking water nationwide. Attorney Madeline Pendley joins Mike Papantonio to explain how factories are endangering the lives of their workers and surrounding areas with these cancer-causing chemicals. Plus, Attorney Robert Price joins Mike Papantonio to explain how doctors are being swindled by producers of surgical supplies, specifically defective hernia mesh.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             The EPA has known for years about the dangers of an industrial chemical known as TCE, but without regulations, tens of thousands of businesses today are still exposing their workers to this toxin, which has made it’s way from factories into our drinking water. Attorney Madeline Pendley joins me to talk about this. Maddie, tell us what TCEs are.

Madeline Pendley:        So TCE is Trichloroethylene, it’s a manmade chemical. So we came up with this. And it’s actually used mostly in factories for cleaning of medical equipment and metal parts, but it’s also found in different cleaning products that we all use and are therefore exposed to in our own homes. Despite being used in so many different ways, it’s actually extremely dangerous. It’s a class one carcinogen, and it has been for a very long time.

Mike Papantonio:             Kidney cancer, liver cancer, birth defects, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It has the capacity to do that.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             It’s in cleaning, as you point out it’s in, it’s, they use it to clean electronics. They use it in refrigeration. They use it in dry cleaning. Many, many uses of it and they, the industry, Dow chemical.

Madeline Pendley:        Yes.

Mike Papantonio:             And it has known for a very long time, how dangerous this is. There’s some countries they don’t, there you can’t even use it. It’s banned totally.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             I’m wondering what kinds of health problems besides those are emerging? Where are we seeing the biggest clusters of health problems?

Madeline Pendley:        Really all over the country. So geographically, there’s, there’s a little bit in every state it seems like. They’re mostly central, centralized around these factories or these manufacturing facilities. So either the air around those facilities is polluted and it actually seeps down into the water table. So TCE will leach down in and so the communities around these factories are drinking the water and they’re being exposed to it as well. So really all over the country, just demographically affecting factory workers.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, there’s no way to even warn about it. I mean, if you’re working around a factory where we’re really seeing this as on military bases, right? I mean.

Madeline Pendley:        We are seeing it on military bases, as well, yes.

Mike Papantonio:             And what, why are we seeing it so much on military bases? We actually see military bases being shut down as super fund sites because the government can’t clean up the disaster. Talk about that.

Madeline Pendley:        Right. So this stuff gets into the environment, whether it’s through on a military base or the factories or wherever, mostly through dumping, spilling or leaks. So you can have leaks in the pipelines that seeps out into the environment, or just negligent, you know, care when they’re transporting this stuff. It dumps and contaminates the entire community.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, you know, what, is anything being done on the federal level? It seems like the EPA, as usual, has just kicked the can down the, down the road.

Madeline Pendley:        Absolutely.

Mike Papantonio:             And let industry tell them what industry wanted to do. EPA leadership and the white house leadership has been, almost, has been totally non-existent on this.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             Wasn’t just the Obama administration that knew about this. It goes all the way back to George Bush. I mean, Bush knew what the potential problems are and they just let the, they just let the FDA just slide on this. Just do whatever you want to do.

Madeline Pendley:        Right. We’ve known how dangerous TCE is for a very long time. And as you mentioned, some flags were raised during the Obama administration. Some bans were suggested, you know, they wanted to start enforcing protections to try and reduce the levels of TCE exposure, try to stop these facilities and these factories from using it. But unfortunately the EPA confusingly kind of blocked some of those measures. They actually, especially during the Trump administration, actually works to protect TCE so that these businesses did not have to stop using it.

Mike Papantonio:             So, okay. We’ve seen, the, the problem is that it’s, it’s not, as, as we said, you talked about the factory and we talked about the fact that it’s used on military bases, a lot for de-greasing all types of industrial size equipment. But the problem is it’s then moving from the base, it’s seeping down into the aquifer to where we have 34% of the drinking water supply in this country right now has TCE in it.

Madeline Pendley:        Exactly.

Mike Papantonio:             And people have no idea what that means to them, right?

Madeline Pendley:        Right, right. And so the problem is this could have been prevented, had, as you mentioned, these companies and these military bases done the right thing from the jump. But now the problem is the contamination is so much further spread than those factories and military bases. So one thing you can do is if you think your water supply has been contaminated, you can order tests for it. There are blood tests and breath tests that you can get yourself to see how much TCE has accumulated in your body. But otherwise, the only thing to really do at this point is to avoid those areas if possible, and get your drinking water tested.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, it’s not going to go away. I mean, it’s like, it’s, it’s not as bad as PHOS. PFOS is in the environment for a million years.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             This simply just, the environment just recharges this as it moves through the aquifer, it doesn’t really just go away. It moves into your drinking water. Utah, really interesting story there in Utah, where you had the military base was hugely affected. And then they started having cancer clusters outside the military base, all around the military base, kidney cancer, liver cancer. They had some birth defects. Talk about that. What are the places that we know are kind of hotspots for this?

Madeline Pendley:        So there are actually pretty significant pockets in almost every state. Some of the biggest offenders are, you know, Utah, Arizona, California has several. New York, New Jersey, North Carolina specifically at Camp Lejeune another military base, as well as Florida. Specifically West Virginia and Oregon. So if you know somebody who potentially has TCE contamination in West Virginia and Oregon, and has experienced some of those side effects, we talked about Parkinson’s, cancer, kidney and liver failure, you can give us at Levin Papantonio Rafferty a call and we’ll look into it.

Mike Papantonio:             You know, what’s interesting, Jan Schlichtmann used to be, he was a law, he was a partner of mine. Law, law partner, he was of counsel with this law firm and has been a friend a long time. He’s the lawyer that tried, that there’s a book it’s called A Civil Action. They made a movie out of, out of it, it’s called A Civil Action. He actually tried the first TCE case decades ago.

Madeline Pendley:        Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             He gave all the information to the government, to the EPA. Jan Schlichtmann had worked the case up from ground on and all he got from them was, we’re not interested. We don’t think this is a problem.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:            This killed people all up and down this area where he tried the case. The case was unsuccessful. But what he did is he took all of that information. It’s worth seeing. It’s called A Civil Action. It’s, it’s a great movie. But the book is suburb. And this, this is where it all started, really.

Madeline Pendley:        Right. And like you mentioned, the problem is that the EPA has enough information to do something about this. You know, and they should. I mean, if no one, if they’re not going to who else is? But they’re not interested and they’re actually taking steps to protect TCE and these facilities.

Mike Papantonio:             I hope you’ll go after them.

Madeline Pendley:        We will.

Mike Papantonio:             Thanks a lot, Maddie.

Madeline Pendley:        Thanks.

Mike Papantonio:             Boston Scientific has reached a $188 million settlement nationwide over it’s phony marketing claims about certain surgical mesh products. These products were found to be totally unnecessary for most procedures and ended up causing extreme pain and bleeding among patients, per, absolute permanent injury. I’ve got Robert Price with me, who was one of the lawyers that made all that happen, has been involved with the mesh case for a long time. Robert, tell us about this litigation, but fill us in about what this is about. What was the case about, why the settlement and what’s ahead of us?

Robert Price:                        Thanks, thanks for having me on, Mike. So the Boston Scientific settlement was a settlement about the pelvic mesh products, which were products that were implanted in women to treat incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse and things like that.

Mike Papantonio:             And you worked that case as well.

Robert Price:                        We’ve been working that case and many other manufacturers for over 10 years. And essentially this, this was a settlement on behalf of AGs around the country that found that Boston Scientific had misled consumers, misled doctors about the true risks associated with the devices.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. So give us a recap on what you’re doing right now.

Robert Price:                        So what we’re doing now is we see a lot of these same manufacturers did the pelvic meshes also have done hernia meshes for many years, and it’s the same by-product, it’s the same synthetic plastic polymer used to repair hernias, as well as the pelvic organ issues as we just talked about as well.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, you’re talking about the material. The, but the thing that struck me is when you discovered that they were using nonmedical grade material. Talk about, they’re using non, they’re using fishing line, basically, that’s sold in a fishing store. Talk about that.

Robert Price:                        Absolutely. What was uncovered in trials a few years ago, and what we’re working up, the backstory, even, even deeper. What some companies do, not necessarily all of them, but several companies do this is they use a non-medical grade by-product so literally just bottom shelf, not approved for human usage type stuff. It breaks down, it degrades.

Mike Papantonio:             It actually says not app, approved for human use, right?

Robert Price:                        Right. The stuff that you get from the factory actually comes with a warning that says, do not use this in the human body.

Mike Papantonio:             But they used it anyway.

Robert Price:                        They used it anyway, and what we’re also discovering, Mike, is that they are coming up with different essentially shell companies to run this stuff through. So people don’t know any better. That’s another thing we’re discovering.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, what do you mean by that? They’re, they’re, they’re setting up shell companies. They’re moving from the manufacturer of the, of the material, moving through a shell company, and then moving to the people who create the mesh product.

Robert Price:                        Right. Right.

Mike Papantonio:             To try to wash the information.

Robert Price:                        Absolutely. Absolutely.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. So as this goes far, as this goes forward, we’re talking about a hernia mesh. What kind of injury does it cause? What, what should be people, what should people be aware of?

Robert Price:                        So, so a lot of these products have these gimmicky coatings and things like that on them. And what we’re seeing is the coating breaks down too soon. It doesn’t work correctly. And these meshes actually, they, they adhere to people’s organs. They’ll blow out too soon. They’ll fail, catastrophic injuries like bowel punctures, internal bleeding, you said, organ perforations.

Mike Papantonio:             Does the material, does the material migrate through their system after it blows out?

Robert Price:                        It can, it absolutely can. It can blow out. It can move over and then you can have some of this chemical leaching that goes on with this really low grade stuff, high inflammatory responses that cause gut problems and things like that as well.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, Robert, one of the things that struck me is this is a procedure that’s not even necessary because a doctor that’s trained without mesh can create, he can fix a hernia without any of this garbage, right?

Robert Price:                        A lot of times.

Mike Papantonio:             So industry came in and said, look, you need this because you’re a doctor who’s not a specialist in fixing hernias, but now you can increase your practice if you’ll use our material. Isn’t that kind of the scenario here?

Robert Price:                        That’s right. We call it, we call them the gimmick meshes, which is they go to a doctor and say, yeah, you know, we know this hernia is real small and it would take you 20, 30, 40 minutes to do this, but it’ll take you five minutes with this easy patch. They think that, you know, the doctors, a lot of times they think it’s FDA approved. They think it’s been studied when it really hasn’t. And a lot of times it’s unnecessary. Doctors don’t need to do it, but it happens because they sold them a bill of goods and it’s turned out the truth is, is unveiled many years later.

Mike Papantonio:             Actually, when you look at the pelvic mesh cases, the juries jumped all over these, these companies and these are the same companies, aren’t they?

Robert Price:                        Right. Right.

Mike Papantonio:             Robert, thank you for joining me. Okay.

Robert Price:                        Thanks, Mike.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.