Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), commonly referred to as “forever chemicals,” have made headlines in recent years. These synthetic compounds have gained notoriety for their persistence in the environment and potential health risks. As awareness grows, so do the lawsuits against PFAS exposure.
In this article, we’ll explore various lawsuits involving different products and industries linked to PFAS contamination.
What are PFAS?
PFAS constitute a family of synthetic chemicals valued for their extraordinary resistance to heat, water, and oil. These versatile compounds have found their way into a wide array of industrial and consumer products over the years.
They are ubiquitous in our daily lives, making appearances in items as diverse as firefighting foam, non-stick cookware, waterproof clothing, and even food packaging.
Astonishingly, there are approximately 5,000 different PFAS chemicals in production today, underscoring their prevalence in various applications.
However, these substances are notorious for their persistent presence in the human body, increasing the risk of cancer and other health issues. Additionally, recent research has unveiled a troubling connection between exposure to PFAS and phenols. This link increases the likelihood of developing certain “hormonally driven” cancers, particularly in women.
Firefighting Foam and Contamination Lawsuits
One of the most well-known sources of PFAS contamination is the Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF), a firefighting foam used to suppress flammable liquid fires.
Military bases, airports, and industrial sites commonly use AFFF for fire suppression training and emergency response, as noted by TorHoerman Law. However, these foams often contain PFAS, and their use has resulted in widespread environmental contamination.
Communities residing near these sites, alongside military personnel and firefighters, have initiated legal actions against both manufacturers and government agencies. These lawsuits contend with a range of issues, including health complications, environmental degradation, and diminished property values resulting from PFAS exposure.
As of August 19, 2023, there is a notable surge in the number of pending cases within the MDL, now reaching 5,614 cases. This figure represents an increase of nearly 1,000 new cases compared to June when there were 4,793 pending cases.
It is estimated that AFFF lawsuit settlement amounts could range from $40,000 to $300,000 or potentially more. This depends on the gravity of each case and individual circumstances.
Water Contamination and PFAS Lawsuits
Among PFAS-related lawsuits, those connected to water contamination are particularly distressing. PFAS compounds can infiltrate groundwater from various origins, including industrial discharges, landfills, and wastewater treatment plants.
Consequently, individuals and entire communities exposed to PFAS-contaminated drinking water have sought legal recourse against the companies and public agencies responsible for the contamination.
The extent of the issue has only become more concerning. Recent data paints a troubling picture, with 3,186 locations across all 50 U.S. states now confirmed to be contaminated with these highly toxic fluorinated compounds known as PFAS.
Notably, the city of Parkersburg, West Virginia, gained attention due to a high-profile legal case. This case involved DuPont and its connection to PFAS contamination in the local water supply. The lawsuits alleged that DuPont had released millions of pounds of the chemical into the Ohio River.
Additionally, they claimed that DuPont had released it into the air from its plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia. These actions were claimed to have caused thousands of individuals to suffer from various health issues, including kidney and testicular cancer, and ulcerative colitis.
The case was resolved with a significant $670 million settlement, one of the largest environmental settlements in U.S. history. This high-profile lawsuit emphasized the severity of PFAS contamination and its profound impact on affected communities. It also set a precedent for seeking justice and accountability in similar cases across the nation.
Consumer Product Liability Lawsuits
In addition to concerns about environmental contamination, there are legal disputes related to consumer product liability due to PFAS exposure. Household items such as Teflon-coated cookware, stain-resistant carpets, and waterproof clothing often incorporate PFAS to bolster their functionality.
A study conducted by the Ecology Center unveiled alarming figures. It found that 79% of tested nonstick cooking pans and 20% of nonstick baking pans featured coatings of PTFE, a common PFAS variant.
Furthermore, nearly 75% of water-resistant products were found to contain toxic PFAS, as per a separate study. These findings have prompted consumers to take legal action against manufacturers. Their claims allege that PFAS exposure has resulted in a range of health issues, including kidney cancer, thyroid disorders, and developmental complications.
Companies like 3M and DuPont have faced lawsuits over their role in producing PFAS-containing products. While some cases have resulted in settlements or court rulings in favor of the plaintiffs, others are ongoing. These consumer product liability lawsuits continue to raise questions about the safety of everyday items we use in our homes.
Legislative Action and Ongoing Legal Battles
In response to the growing concerns surrounding PFAS exposure, several states have implemented strict regulations to limit PFAS usage and contamination. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also working to set maximum allowable levels for PFAS in drinking water.
The legal battles involving PFAS exposure are far from over. They highlight the need for increased corporate responsibility, stricter regulations, and further research into the long-term health effects of these “forever chemicals.”
Lawsuits against PFAS exposure demonstrate the significant impact that these compounds have had on both individuals and the environment. As awareness of PFAS-related risks grows, legal actions continue to be a critical tool for holding manufacturers and organizations accountable.
These lawsuits aim to secure compensation for affected parties. Furthermore, they play a pivotal role in influencing changes in industry practices. They also work toward shaping government regulations, all with the ultimate aim of reducing PFAS exposure and safeguarding public health.