Central to the modern world economy, chemicals make it possible to supply the world with food, energy, medicine, and materials. Everything we use or touch is a chemical or combination of chemicals. Yet, chemicals are also implicated in climate change, environmental contamination, the overuse of limited natural resources, and illness. The industry is challenged by well-publicized large and small accidents and product problems. These issues are a ripe environment for legal disputes.
The world of chemistry expert witnesses is frequently divided into organic and inorganic chemists. Organic chemistry is the study of the structure, properties, and preparation of carbon-containing compounds. Organic chemists develop commercial products including pharmaceuticals and plastics. They improve the nutritional value, taste, and packaging of foods for humans and animals, and develop new methods of treating natural materials such as cotton and silk to create more durable and attractive fabrics. Organic compounds can be found in agrochemicals, coatings, cosmetics, detergents, and many other products.
Inorganic chemical compounds are those that are formed by the combination of two or more chemicals other than carbon. In the inorganic chemistry realm, compounds such as ammonia, chlorine, and titanium dioxide are used as catalysts, pigments, coatings, surfactants, medicines, fuels, and more. They often have specifically designed melting points and electrical conductivity properties to tailor them for distinct purposes.
But it is of course the environmental and health problems which lead to litigation. Court dockets are swelling with class action and multi-district litigation over PFAS, so-called “forever chemicals” found in consumer and industrial products that build up and are persistent in the environment and our bodies. Toxic tort cases involving workplace exposure to hazardous chemicals such as benzene and asbestos continue to proliferate as well.