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Genomics Role in Toxic Torts

Advances in genomic tools and their decreasing cost are making them more attractive to use in toxic tort claims, reports.

Toxic torts are personal injury lawsuits in which plaintiffs allege that exposure to a chemical or other substance caused them injury to become ill. Most commonly, says these claims are in regards to exposure to chemicals like asbestos, tobacco, or pesticides and cancer development

But finding a causal link can be tricky. In these cases, the plaintiff has to show both general causation and specific causation, meaning that the chemical or other substance has to be shown to cause injury in the general public as well as be shown to have caused the plaintiff's injury, says. Currently, it adds that experts typically rely on epidemiological studies to argue for or against causation, but genomic analyses may soon step in.

Plaintiffs could use biomarkers and individual gene mutations, it notes, to show chemical exposure or a predisposition to disease, though at the same time, defendants could use such data to argue that the injury or disease was due to an inherited predisposition.

Either way, says the "application of genomics and individualized genetic testing to toxic torts will become routine practice to support and defend toxic tort claims and will almost certainly create some controversial precedents in the near future."