Are Old Gas Lines Dangerous?

Monday, September 17, 2018

The infrastructure in your city or even your home could pose many hidden dangers. For example, we know that some old building materials, like lead and asbestos, can lead to detrimental effects like brain damage and cancer. However, what about materials like old gas lines? Can these pose a risk to you and your family?

America’s Aging Natural Gas System

Unfortunately, tales regarding the dangerous nature of America’s natural gas system abound. In 2014, news of a gas explosion in Harlem rocked the nation, after an aging infrastructure was responsible for the death of 8 and injuring dozens more. A crack in an old gas pipeline was reportedly responsible for the leak – piping that was more than 100 years old. Just how much of America’s gas infrastructure is like this? What danger does it pose to the average city dweller?
The nation’s natural gas pipeline is a large network of pipes that carry from underground wells to your appliances every day. This labyrinth of pipes comprises more than 2.4 million miles and distributes natural gas all over the country. Most of this network is smaller pipes that go directly to your stove, or water heater, or whatever other appliances in your home run on gas. The rest – about 20% — are larger pipes that gather gas from refineries and transport it long distances throughout the country.
Domestic gas production has increased exponentially in recent years thanks to practices like fracking. This means that higher volume may overburden the already aging natural gas system. To address this, municipal and energy authorities are announcing new gas projects, complete with plenty of new pipelines. Though new pipelines are in the works, municipalities have done little to address the current aging pipelines that run under community homes.

What Causes Gas Leaks?

Over time, gas lines can corrode and eventually rupture, leading to leaks underground. In other cases, gas leaks may arise from extreme weather like hurricanes and the high winds they bring.
Cast iron pipes are more likely to corrode and lead to catastrophic leaks. The U.S. Department of Transportation notes that the majority of cast iron piping is isolated to five states:  New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.
Unfortunately, one of the main problems with America’s aging natural gas infrastructure is that gas companies lack the proper incentive to replace them with new ones. Under current law, gas companies can pass the cost of replacing pipelines on to consumers. While newer plastic models are much safer and more durable, it could be decades until gas companies replace them to protect the health of the consumers they serve.

What Can You Do About Gas Leaks?

Natural gas is naturally odorless, but most gas companies add scent to it so it resembles the smell of rotten eggs. If you smell leaking gas on your property, alert the gas company right away. It’s possible that you have a gas leak that needs immediate attention.
Similarly, be vigilant about any construction going on in your neighborhood. You may notice the utility company come out to mark the location of gas lines with flags – it’s important to leave these flags where they are and discourage children from playing with them.
Aging gas lines can present a serious problem to American families. Left unchecked, these pipes that run underground can cause serious harm from leaks and explosions. Gas companies have a responsibility to replace piping with more effective and durable plastic, and the government has a duty to protect the consumer from absorbing the cost associated with replacement. By addressing these points, we can protect everyone from the dangers associated with aging gas lines.

Posted by Aaron Herbert at 10:51 am

Why Do Lithium-Ion Batteries Explode?

Monday, September 10, 2018

Lithium ion batteries have been the subject of controversy in recent news. It started with the Galaxy Note phone, with reports of spontaneously combusting units on planes, and some even causing house fires. Now, reports of exploding e-cigarettes and vaping pens make big headlines.
An exploding lithium ion battery can lead to burns and other devastating injuries and property damage. It can occur in any item that contains one, from vaping pens to hover boards. Why do lithium ion batteries explode, and what can you do to reduce your risk of injury?

What Is A Lithium Ion Battery?

We consider Lithium ion batteries an important technological advancement in the 21st century, and for the most part this is true. These units boast a long battery life, they’re portable and lightweight, and can accommodate the shape and size of many different types of electronics. Chances are, if you have a newer cell phone, laptop, or electronic device, you have a lithium ion batter in your house right now.
Lithium ion batteries serve a great purpose. However, they’re not without their downsides. These units store a lot of power, and when they malfunction, the devastation can be great – for example, an explosion or other form of spontaneous combustion may occur. Overheated lithium ion batteries have been responsible for house fires, burns on the hands and face, and other devastating injuries.
Lithium ion batteries are particularly sensitive to high temperatures. When exposed, they can quickly overheat and the consequences can be dire. However, the nature of the battery’s construction can be just as dangerous as the battery itself.

Negligent Construction of Lithium Ion Batteries

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recall of lithium ion batteries is perhaps the best-known debacle regarding the subject to date. Samsung traced the problem to a manufacturer of the battery in China, which has less stringent regulatory processes than other countries like the United States. By switching manufacturers, they assured the public the phones would be safe once again.
In the holiday season of 2016, hover boards were extremely popular. Unfortunately, similar stories of hazards began to come out. Stories of units exploding while they were charging had parents worried for their children’s safety. Retailers, faced with massive returns, encouraged parents to buy units with high quality lithium ion batteries to avoid the possibility of overheating and subsequent injuries and property damage.

Duty of Care to the Consumer

All manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of products have a duty of care to their consumers. When a dangerous or defective product leads to injury, anyone in this chain might be responsible for damages. Any person injured by an exploding lithium ion battery may be able to collect damages from a liable party if the following apply:

  • The product was defective or inherently dangerous; in other words, it did not work in its intended way with normal use.
  • The defective product was the proximal cause of the victim’s injuries.
  • The consumer was using the product as intended.

Most product liability claims fall under the category of strict liability, which means victims will not have to prove that a manufacturer was negligent to collect damages. It does not matter if the party committed negligence or not; since a duty of care to a consumer is higher, the injured party only needs to prove that a defective product directly led to injury.
Lithium ion batteries pose a danger to the average consumer. Anyone who owns a product containing a lithium ion battery should keep it in a temperature-controlled environment and avoid charging it for long periods. Doing so could reduce the risk of serious injury.

Posted by Aaron Herbert at 1:36 pm

What Are The Leading Causes of Pedestrian Injury?

Monday, September 3, 2018

Pedestrian injuries are still unfortunately common occurrences. In recent years, public health authorities have attempted to control the amount of pedestrian death and injury by creating more walkable urban centers, installing more crosswalks in busy areas, and doing other things to reduce the risk of accidents. However, pedestrian accidents still can and do occur daily. In fact, a recent Governor’s Highway Safety Association found that pedestrian deaths increased by 11% between 2015 and 2016. What causes these devastating occurrences? Here’s what you need to know.

Unmarked Crosswalks

Most pedestrian accidents occur at intersections. Crosswalks can help reduce the risk of being in a pedestrian accident, but unfortunately not all crosswalks have markings. Pedestrians have the right of way when crossing at an intersection, but many people fail to recognize this. Statistically, pedestrian accidents at crosswalks are more likely to occur in the summer months when people are out and about. Designating lines at crosswalks and installing appropriate traffic signals is a simple and effective way to control this type of accident.

Use of Drugs of Alcohol

DUIs are serious offenses, and ones for which the state does not have much tolerance. Conviction of a DUI can lead to license revocation and suspension, fines, court costs, community service, and more. Unfortunately, not everyone pays attention to the rules. Drivers who operate under the influence of drugs and alcohol pose a danger to themselves and others on the road, and to pedestrians. Because of delayed reaction times and sloppy judgement, pedestrian accidents involving drunk drivers are often fatal.

Distracted Driving

Texting and cell phone use while driving are nearly as dangerous as drunk driving. Motorists can plow into pedestrians because they’re too busy operating a navigation system, sending a text, or perusing Facebook to pay attention to their surroundings. Accidents due to driver inattention lead to pedestrian injuries and deaths each year.

Accidents Involving Left Hand Turns

Most pedestrian accidents occur at intersections, but they’re slightly more likely to occur when a driver is making a left hand turn at a crosswalk. The reasoning behind this is that a driver and a pedestrian are more likely to be looking in opposite directions while making their commute.

Inclement Weather Conditions

Certain conditions like rain can decrease visibility and make it more difficult for drivers to see clearly. As a result, they may not be able to see a pedestrian before it’s too late. Though inclement weather may play a role in pedestrian accidents, drivers must also know how to drive in ambient weather conditions and make adjustments as necessary. As such, a driver who hits a pedestrian in an accident will likely still be liable for his or her injuries.

Arterial Roadways

Finally, so-called ‘arterial roadways’ can make a pedestrian accident more likely. These roads help improve traffic flow on and off freeways, but they serve particular dangers to pedestrians. Many pedestrian accidents occur on these roadways, especially since bus stops are often nearby. When drivers are still driving in “highway mode,” they’re less likely to notice pedestrians, which can lead to high-speed accidents. Unfortunately, arterial roadway accidents often prove fatal to the pedestrian.
Pedestrian injuries may occur in any number of scenarios, but some urban setups and driver behaviors make them more likely. Unmarked crosswalks and arterial roadways pose a particular danger to pedestrians, as do dangerous behaviors like electronic device use, driving under the influence, and general inattention. By avoiding some of the most common scenarios leading to pedestrian accidents, walkers can reduce their risk of injury. By understanding the risks involved with driver inattention and negligence, motorists can similarly take steps to reduce the risk their behavior has on others.

Posted by Aaron Herbert at 2:59 pm