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Environmental Law and Toxic Exposures

We represent clients before federal, state, and local agencies with respect to specific areas of environmental law, such as hazardous waste and environmental and toxic exposures. We represent clients in enforcement actions and litigation in connection with contamination of consumer products, real property, based on concepts such as nuisance, trespass, Proposition 65, toxic torts, the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), among many others.
















Here are a few of the federal and state agencies that play a major role in the environmental legal landscape:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is tasked with protecting human health and the environment. The agency was established in 1970, and its main roles include:

  1. Regulation and Enforcement: The EPA develops and enforces regulations to implement environmental laws enacted by Congress. It is responsible for monitoring and ensuring compliance with these regulations to address air and water pollution, chemical hazards, and other environmental risks 

  2. Research: The EPA conducts research on the health effects of environmental exposures and on the environmental impacts of various substances and technologies. This research helps shape policy, guide regulatory action, and improve understanding of environmental issues

  3. Grants: The agency provides grants to support research, education, and conservation initiatives. These grants help state and local governments improve their environmental programs.

  4. Education: The EPA engages in outreach and education to inform the public about environmental issues and empower individuals and communities to protect their health and the environment.

  5. Assessment and Monitoring: The agency monitors environmental quality, assesses environmental trends, and collects data to evaluate the effectiveness of existing regulations and policies.

  6. Standard Setting: The EPA sets and updates environmental standards, such as air and water quality standards, to protect human health and the environment.

In short, the EPA ensures a cleaner, healthier environment for all Americans by implementing and enforcing laws intended to regulate environmental quality and protect natural resources.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for protecting public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices. The FDA also oversees the safety and labeling of the nation's food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation. Here are some of the key functions of the FDA:


  1. Product Approval and Regulation: The FDA evaluates new drugs, biologics (like vaccines and therapeutic antibodies), and medical devices to ensure they are safe and effective before they can be sold. This process involves reviewing clinical trial data and other evidence.

  2. Monitoring and Enforcement: After products are approved for use, the FDA continues to monitor their safety and effectiveness. This includes managing recalls and other corrective actions if safety issues arise.

  3. Food Safety: The agency ensures that the U.S. food supply is safe, sanitary, wholesome, and accurately labeled. This includes regulation of food additives, overseeing food production processes, and setting food safety standards.

  4. Tobacco Products: The FDA regulates the manufacture, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products to protect public health and reduce minors' tobacco use.

  5. Research and Development: The FDA conducts research to understand health risks better, to develop testing methods, and to improve product safety and effectiveness.

  6. Public Health Information: The agency provides accurate, science-based information to healthcare providers, consumers, and other stakeholders, helping them make informed decisions.

  7. Regulatory Science: The FDA advances regulatory science by developing new tools, standards, and approaches to assess the safety, efficacy, quality, and performance of FDA-regulated products.


The FDA plays a critical role in ensuring that medical and food products distributed in the U.S. meet rigorous health and safety standards.

United States Department of Agriculture

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is a federal agency that oversees various aspects of agriculture, forestry, and food. Its primary responsibilities include:


  1. Food Safety: The USDA is responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged. This is primarily managed by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

  2. Agricultural Support: The agency supports farmers through subsidies, loans, and conservation programs. It helps stabilize farming incomes and promote agricultural production, which feeds the nation and contributes to exports.

  3. Nutrition Assistance: The USDA administers several programs to help address food insecurity, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), school meals programs, and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children.

  4. Conservation: Through various initiatives, the USDA conserves and manages public lands and private agricultural lands in an environmentally sustainable manner. This includes efforts to improve soil health, water quality, and forest restoration.

  5. Research and Statistics: The USDA conducts research in agricultural and food sciences to help improve farming efficiency and food production. It also provides statistical analysis and data about agriculture that informs public policy.

  6. Rural Development: The agency offers programs to support rural America, including infrastructure improvements, business development, housing, and community facilities. Its goal is to enhance the quality of life and economic health in rural areas.

  7. International Food Aid and Development: The USDA participates in international food assistance and development projects, which aim to promote food security and agricultural development globally.

  8. Regulation of Organic Standards: The USDA sets and enforces standards for organic agricultural products through its National Organic Program, ensuring that products labeled as organic meet consistent, uniform standards.


The USDA's work is vital in supporting the agricultural economy, ensuring food security, and promoting sustainable land use practices both domestically and internationally.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plays a crucial role in protecting human health and the environment in the United States. Established in 1970, the EPA is tasked with the oversight and enforcement of a wide range of environmental statutes aimed at combating air and water pollution, managing chemical risks, and upholding regulations that ensure a safe and clean environment for all Americans. Here are some of the core responsibilities of the EPA:

  1. Regulation and Enforcement: The EPA develops and enforces regulations under federal laws, such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act. These regulations are designed to limit emissions of harmful pollutants, protect drinking water, manage waste, and preserve natural resources.

  2. Research: The agency conducts scientific research to understand the effects of contaminants on health and the environment, which supports the development of its policies and programs. This research also helps improve and innovate new technologies for pollution control and sustainability.

  3. Grants: The EPA provides funding through grants to state environmental programs, non-profits, educational institutions, and others. These grants support projects that improve environmental quality, enhance the capacity of state and local governments to enforce and implement environmental regulations, and advance education and public awareness of environmental issues.

  4. Standard Setting and Monitoring: The EPA sets environmental standards based on scientific research and assessments. These standards help ensure the quality of air, water, and land. The agency also monitors the environment and human health to measure progress and adjust regulatory approaches as needed.

  5. Environmental Education: The EPA engages in educational activities to raise awareness about environmental issues and promote environmental stewardship. This includes providing information and resources to the public, educators, and students.

  6. Compliance Assistance and Enforcement: The agency ensures compliance with environmental laws through monitoring and enforcement actions. When violations occur, the EPA can impose penalties, require corrective actions, and, if necessary, engage in legal action to ensure compliance.

  7. Partnerships and Collaboration: The EPA works with other federal agencies, state and local governments, tribal governments, the private sector, and international organizations to coordinate global and local environmental initiatives and share best practices.

In summary, the EPA's function involves regulatory and enforcement activities, research, education, and partnership initiatives to protect the environment and ensure a healthier future for current and future generations.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is an independent federal regulatory agency with a crucial role in protecting the public against unreasonable risks of injuries and deaths associated with consumer products. Here are the key responsibilities and functions of the CPSC:


  1. Regulation and Oversight: The CPSC is responsible for regulating the sale and manufacture of more than 15,000 different consumer products, from toys and cribs to power tools and cigarette lighters. The agency sets safety standards for consumer products to ensure they do not pose fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazards.

  2. Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment: The agency continuously monitors and evaluates consumer products to identify potential risks and hazards. This includes analysis of incident and injury data to prioritize regulatory actions or recalls.

  3. Mandatory Standards and Bans: The CPSC develops mandatory standards for products to prevent unsafe products from reaching the market. If a product cannot be made safe under a reasonable standard, the CPSC can ban it.

  4. Recalls and Corrective Actions: The agency has the authority to issue recalls for products that pose a significant risk to consumers. It works with manufacturers and retailers to remove these products from the market and often facilitates the corrective action plan, which may include repair, replacement, or refund.

  5. Research and Testing: The CPSC conducts research and testing on consumer products to establish safety standards and improve product safety. This often involves testing products at the CPSC’s National Product Testing and Evaluation Center.

  6. Public Education and Information: The agency provides information and education to consumers and businesses about product safety through various media, including its website, public awareness campaigns, and direct communications. The CPSC aims to improve public awareness of the risks associated with various consumer products and inform consumers about recalls.

  7. Cooperation with Businesses and International Partners: The CPSC collaborates with manufacturers, retailers, other governmental agencies, and international bodies to promote product safety standards and practices worldwide.

In summary, the CPSC ensures that consumer products are safe for use, prevents injuries and deaths from dangerous products, and educates the public and manufacturers about product safety.

Office of Environmental Health Hazard 

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), part of the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), plays a vital role in protecting public health and the environment from chemical risks. Here are the primary responsibilities and functions of OEHHA:


  1. Risk Assessment: OEHHA assesses risks posed by environmental contaminants. This includes evaluating the potential health effects of chemical exposures from air, water, food, and soil. The risk assessments conducted by OEHHA are crucial for informing public health decisions and regulatory measures.

  2. Scientific Research and Reviews: The office conducts scientific research and reviews on the health effects of environmental pollutants. OEHHA's findings are used to support the development of health-protective policies and regulations across various environmental media.

  3. Public Health Guidelines: OEHHA develops guidelines and reference levels for chemicals in the environment. These guidelines help regulatory agencies set enforceable limits on contaminants to protect public health.

  4. Proposition 65 Implementation: One of OEHHA's key roles is implementing California's Proposition 65, formally known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. OEHHA is responsible for maintaining and updating the list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. The agency also develops safe harbor levels, which are exposure levels for chemicals listed under Proposition 65 that do not require a warning.

  5. Public Information and Outreach: OEHHA provides information to the public about the health effects of environmental contaminants. This includes publishing reports, fact sheets, and other educational materials to help individuals make informed decisions about their exposure to environmental hazards.

  6. Advisory Support: OEHHA offers scientific support and advice to other departments within the California EPA and other state agencies on matters related to environmental health.

  7. Indicator Development: The office develops indicators related to environmental health that help track trends over time and evaluate the effectiveness of state environmental policies.

In short, OEHHA assesses and communicates risks associated with environmental contaminants, ensuring that the public and policymakers have the scientific information necessary to make effective decisions that protect health and the environment.

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