Ark. Defendants Say Industry as a Whole Shouldn’t Be Blamed For Arsenic

July 27, 2006

Broad references to the “poultry industry” have no place in a case in which specific companies are accused of arsenic pollution in Arkansas, defense lawyers say.

They have asked a judge to bar plaintiffs from using such an all-encompassing term at an upcoming court hearing. The poultry companies named in the lawsuit – including Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods Inc. – want the plaintiffs to prove a specific company caused health problems, not the poultry industry in general.

The companies argue that the plaintiffs are trying to blame the entire poultry industry to avoid the task of trying to prove that a specific company caused the arsenic pollution.

Plaintiffs claim that a substance used to enhance chicken growth, Roxarsone, has resulted in high arsenic levels in the Prairie Grove area. The plaintiffs say that after litter degrades, the air’s arsenic level increases, which can cause cancer and other health problems.

The first trial in the case – which involves seven lawsuits – is set for Sept. 5, with plaintiffs Michael and Mary Green and their son, Blu, who suffered from leukemia as a minor.

Washington County Circuit Judge Kim Smith has refused to certify the case as a class action.

Both sides in the case exchanged filings July 24. Plaintiffs asked Smith to exclude testimony and evidence about alternate sources of the arsenic. The court filing says the poultry companies have no evidence to show the plaintiffs were exposed to arsenic from any source other than poultry litter.

Attorneys for the poultry companies asked to exclude statements attributed to Arkansas Children’s Hospital that suggests a link between the poultry industry and childhood health problems.

The companies also ask to exclude all references to odor and dust clouds associated with chicken litter because they say there’s no connection between dust clouds and exposure to arsenic.

The companies sued include Alpharma, Alpharma Animal Health, Cal-Maine Farms, Cargill, George’s, Peterson, Simmons and Tyson Foods.

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