HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Hundreds of urine samples that were supposed to be tested for benzene in Deer Park area residents were allegedly contaminated before they could be tested, according to a lawsuit filed against LabCorp Wednesday.
Many Deer Park area residents are now wondering if they’ll ever know whether the symptoms they had after the ITC fire were related to the benzene emissions.
Many of them gave urine samples at the local emergency room, Community Health 1st.
Now they’ve learned the samples that would have detected benzene in their system were compromised and rendered useless.
“When they got the test results, the test results said the sample was contaminated," said Attorney Bill Ogden, who is representing the Deer Park residents who filed a lawsuit against LabCorp today.
Patients received letters from LabCorp stating:
“Test was not performed. Specimen leaked in transit and is no longer suitable for testing.”
According to the lawsuit, LabCorp informed Community Health 1st this week that approximately 80 percent of roughly 500 urine samples were contaminated during transit to Minnesota.
All of the urine samples were from patients complaining of benzene exposure-like symptoms.
“Burning of their throat, burning of your sinus, eyes, and then it can cause dizziness," said Ogden. “One very young child less than six months was hospitalized for a few days to give oxygen levels because the respiratory issues were so bad.”
The CEO of Community Health 1st ER, Jay Mackey, sent Fox a statement that says in full:
“After speaking with the regional director for the Southeastern area I was informed that there were several samples that weren’t eligible for testing. The reason provided was vague and listed “leaked in transit” as the cause. After speaking directly with Lab Corp’s courier he assured us that this didn’t happen during his transit route, nor were there any leaked specimen containers during the drop off. After additional investigation on my behalf, it was uncovered that Lab Corp packaged several facilities specimen collection container’s in one transport bag. This bag was then placed as cargo and shipped via plane to Lab Corp’s MEDTOX facility in Minnesota, where they indicated all specialty tests are conducted. In transit, and what Lab Corp believes to be caused by a change in cabin pressure, one or more of the samples leaked. Although no information was provided as to which facility the leaked specimen came from, Lab Corp stated that all specimen collections in that bag were compromised due to the possibility of ‘cross-contamination.’
It’s important to mention that CH1ER had several samples that were able to be tested with results given, before and after this incident. This incident isn’t unilateral of one facility and Lab Corp has expressed their sincerest apologies. They have also indicated that any samples that weren’t able to be tested would not be charged for because of the incident."
“Who was in charge? Who was in control? How this happened? Where it happened? And then also we’re going to figure out, have they had any contact with lawyers from ITC?” Ogden questioned.
The Deer Park residents filing the lawsuit against LabCorp declined to interview with us.
Donald Von Hage, Vice President of Corporate Communications of LabCorp, sent us the following statement:
"LabCorp can confirm that approximately 60 urine samples that were collected in Deer Park, Texas, on March 29, 2019, leaked while in transit to the LabCorp testing facility and could not be tested. We notified the facility that collected and submitted the specimens when we determined that the samples could not be tested. LabCorp takes the handling of every specimen very seriously, and we continue to investigate this matter. We do not have further information to provide at this time."