When the actions of a company or industry cause problems in the local environment, it can also have a negative impact on the health of local residents or workers nearby.
If you have health complaints and have suffered loss because of environmental polluters, you may be entitled to compensation.
Potential health issues may arise from:
- farm spraying;
- water contamination;
- industry, factory or mining pollution; or
- waste disposal sites.
It’s important here to make a distinction between contracting an illness at work or at home. In the case of workers, if the cause of an illness can be attributed to the workplace you have access to workers compensation rights, or, you can take legal action against the employer.
For local residents the situation is different and much more complex.
Residents must look at their health complaint and establish if there’s a clear relationship between the symptoms and the factors which they believe are causing the problem (e.g. contaminated water or air pollution).
To take legal action, residents would have to identify which company is the manufacturer of the pollutant and prove that it contained carcinogens or some other toxic elements which caused their health problems. This process may involve:
- seeking out a health professional’s opinion;
- gaining relevant medical evidence and/or;
- asking authorities to investigate the issue.
If you go through this process and establish there's a known relationship between your health problem and the pollutants, you may have a legal case to pursue.
While we may see many cases in the USA where people take action against polluting corporations, in Australia the laws are not as well developed. Litigation can be tough and is often heavily defended. Polluters argue that there are other factors involved, such as an individual’s lifestyle choices – cigarette smoking for example – or exposure to other pollutants elsewhere.