California’s attorney general (AG) has sued 3M Corporation, DuPont de Nemours Inc and several other companies to recoup the “staggering” clean-up costs from toxic pollutants known as PFAS “forever chemicals.”* The lawsuit followed a multiyear probe that found the companies marketed products containing polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) for decades despite knowing they cause cancer, developmental defects and other health problems. The lawsuit could ultimately seek hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties and costs.
The California State Attorney General will argue that the defendants created a public nuisance and the State has demanded the big chemical companies pay to clean up PFAS in California, which has been found in drinking water, rivers, lakes, wildlife and the bloodstreams of about 98% of California’s approximately 39 million people. The California AG alleges violations of state consumer protection and environmental law violations and invokes the federal Superfund law, which establishes a path to recoup the costs of cleaning up hazardous substances.
Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against chemical companies in the last two decades for health and environmental damage from PFAS, potentially leading to billions of dollars in liabilities. In June of 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warned that forever chemicals could be dangerous even at undetectable levels. The Biden administration is expected to issue the first enforceable drinking water regulations for PFAS in public water systems this year. (source)
PFAS chemicals (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are toxic to humans, animals and the environment. They are comprised of approximately 12,000 compounds. They are ubiquitous in the U.S., appearing in thousands of consumer and industrial products and are typically used to make products resist water, stains and heat, including household products (like carpeting, curtains, furniture upholstery, waterproof and stain-resistant flooring, etc.), cooking supplies (including cooking utensils and bake ware), clothing, personal care products (like cosmetics, including waterproof mascara) and even food (PFAS appears in processed food packaging for humans and pets) and public drinking water (tap water) that affects an estimated 2 million Americans. PFAS chemicals are usually found in products labeled “stain-proof” and “waterproof”. PFAS chemicals also appear in fire-fighting foam and other industrial products used at airports and military bases across the country, where the chemicals have leached into the groundwater. PFAS chemicals are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not readily break down in the environment or human body. PFAS chemicals have been linked in scientific and medical studies to a variety of serious health conditions including cancer (including testicular cancers), kidney disease, heart disease, thyroid problems, reproductive problems, endocrine problems (PFAS has been found to disrupt hormonal functions with some research suggesting that the PFAS chemicals are linked to accelerated ovarian aging, period irregularities and ovarian disorders like polycystic ovarian syndrome) and liver problems. Some newer PFAS have been found to accumulate in organs, so in some cases, science simply cannot detect the toxic chemicals when testing for it in blood. PFAS chemicals have been detected in the blood of more than 98% of Americans.
To learn more about the scientific findings linking PFAS chemicals to serious health outcomes go to our Chemical-Watch Blog, scroll down to the bottom of any post and put “PFAS” into the search box.