Vermont Governor signs first-ever state law that gives those impacted by toxic pollution the right to demand polluters pay for health monitoring costs
April 21, 2022
Health advocates applaud the move and anticipate more government policies to follow
PORTLAND, OR—Today, Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed the first-ever state law (S. 113) that gives individuals the right to seek medical monitoring of diseases linked to toxic chemical exposures from corporate polluters. It would also allow the State of Vermont to sue the companies that make dangerous chemicals for the harm they cause to Vermont’s air, land, water, and public facilities. The law makes Vermont the first state in the nation to place in statute the responsibility of corporate polluters, instead of victims, to pay for medical monitoring for diseases linked to toxic chemical exposure. While courts in 16 states have given victims the ability to seek medical monitoring through case law, Vermont’s new law places the right to seek medical monitoring in statute and clarifies the criteria that must be met to be awarded medical monitoring damages.
Health advocacy organizations from Vermont and states across the country applaud this move and anticipate more government policies to follow.
Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC), Vermont Conservation Voters and Safer States released the following statement in response to this news:
“It is about time that companies that are responsible for exposing communities to toxic chemicals have to pay for community wellness,” said Jon Groveman, policy and water program director for the Vermont Natural Resources Council. “This policy is long overdue as communities deserve the right to hold those that cause them harm accountable and should not have to bear the costs of corporate wrongdoing.”
“Big corporations typically have large legal teams that can tie up lawsuits in court for many years, and make it incredibly difficult for victims of toxic contamination to be compensated for the costs they’ve had to bear,” Lauren Hierl, executive director of Vermont Conservation Voters.
“This is another clear demonstration of state policies leading the nation,” explained Sarah Doll, national director of Safer States. “We applaud Vermont’s bold leadership in holding corporate polluters accountable and making it easier for victims of toxic pollution to get the help they need. We expect this to have a ripple effect across the country and for other states to follow their lead.”
BACKGROUND ON MEDICAL MONITORING
A growing body of scientific research has found links between toxic chemical exposure and a wide range of health problems including a weaker immune system, cancer, increased cholesterol levels, pregnancy-induced hypertension, liver damage, reduced fertility, and increased risk of thyroid disease. Diseases linked to toxic chemical exposure can take years to develop. Medical monitoring legislation requires polluting manufacturers—those that have released toxic chemicals into a community—to pay for the medical testing of the people they exposed to detect future injury or disease at the earliest possible moment to maximize the chances of a beneficial treatment.
Courts in approximately 16 states have recognized the right to seek medical monitoring through case law. However, Vermont’s new law (S. 113) is the first time a state has placed this right in statute, leaving no question that victims of industrial releases of toxic substances that create a risk of contracting a disease may seek costs for medical monitoring. S. 113 also allows the State of Vermont to sue the manufacturers of chemicals for harm caused to natural resources or the cost needed to treat these chemicals at water supply and wastewater facilities. This will allow the State of Vermont to hold these manufacturers for the harm caused by the chemicals they place into commerce.
VERMONT NATURAL RESOURCES COUNCIL (VNRC)
Through research, education, collaboration and advocacy, VNRC protects and enhances Vermont’s natural environments, vibrant communities, productive working landscapes, rural character and unique sense of place, and prepares the state for future challenges and opportunities. www.vnrc.org
VERMONT CONSERVATION VOTERS (VCV)
VCV is the non-partisan political action arm of Vermont’s environmental community. Since 1982, our mission has been to defend and strengthen the laws that safeguard our environment. We work to elect environmentally responsible candidates. We then hold legislators accountable for the decisions they make affecting our air, water, land, wildlife, communities, and health. www.vermontconservationvoters.com
Safer States is an alliance of diverse environmental health organizations and coalitions from across the nation committed to building a healthier world. By harnessing place-based power, the alliance works to safeguard people and the planet from toxic chemicals and sparks innovative solutions for a more sustainable future. www.saferstates.org
Vermont Natural Resources Council
“This is another clear demonstration of state policies leading the nation,” explained Sarah Doll, national director of Safer States.