Lawrence P. Riff, toxic tort practice group leader, Steptoe & Johnson LLP, Los Angeles
(From November 2011, Letters)
Perhaps enough has been written about the questionable science underlying recent U.S. government pronouncements concerning formaldehyde and human cancer of the lymphohematopoietic system (“LHPs—including the leukemias and the lymphomas)*. Now, suppliers of formaldehyde-containing product must face the uncertainties and high expense of defending questionable and likely meritless lawsuits asserting formaldehyde exposure and induction of an LHP malignancy. The opportunity for such lawsuits is clear: in the U.S. 150,000 new LHP malignancies are diagnosed annually, and at least hundreds of thousands of workers are occupationally exposed while hundreds of millions of others are non-occupationally exposed to formaldehyde daily.
Confused and frightened cancer victims turn to the Internet for guidance where they find an army of lawyers seeking to represent allegedly injured workers relative to formaldehyde-containing “defective products.” (Google “formaldehyde cancer lawyer” and see what comes up.) Such lawyers trumpet the bumper-sticker conclusion of the governmental authoritative bodies (“formaldehyde causes leukemia!”) while chalking up any challenge to the science…