What are PFAS?
Perfluoroalky and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are a family of thousands of synthetic harmful chemicals that are extremely persistent in the environment and in our bodies, according to the U.S. EPA .
Chemists at 3M and Dupont first developed other PFAS chemicals by accident in the 1930s when researching carbon-based chemical reactions.
During one experiment, an unusual coating remained in the testing chamber, which upon further testing was shown to be completely resistant to any methods designed to break apart the atoms within the chemical.
The material also had a long half life and the incredible ability to repel oil and water. Dupont later called this substance perfluorooctanoic acid, which became the first PFAS ever invented.
After World War II, Dupont commercialized perfluorooctanoic acid into the revolutionary product that the company branded “Teflon.”
3M later invented its own PFAS chemical – perfluorooctane sulfonate, which the company commercialized and branded as “Scotchgard.”
Various PFAS levels were soon used in hundreds of consumer products – today, that number is in the thousands.
The same physical characteristics that make tackling PFAS issues in commercial applications also make them highly persistent and mobile in local communities and the human body – hence the nickname, “forever chemicals.”
While the science is still developing regarding the extent of possible effects on human health risks, recent studies have found that perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid are capable of causing certain types of cancer, liver and kidney issues, immunological problems, and reproductive and developmental harm.
Where are PFAS Found?
PFAS compound can be found in:
- Food packaged in PFAS-contaminated materials, processed with equipment that used PFAS, or grown in PFAS-contaminated water.
- Commercial household products, including stain- and water-repellent fabrics, nonstick products (e.g., Teflon), polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products, and fire-fighting foams.
- Workplace, including production facilities or industries (e.g., chrome plating, electronics manufacturing process, oil recovery, paper mill) that use PFAS issues.
- Drinking water supplies, e.g. landfills, wastewater treatment plants, firefighter training facilities and task force.
- Living organisms, including fish, animals, and humans.
What's the Problem with PFAS?
PFAS is a dangerous toxic chemical that people come into contact with everyday through the use of various common household products, as well as through our food and drinking water.
PFAS does not break down naturally and it is impossible to destroy.
Therefore, certain PFAS can potentially contaminate our environment and food forever.
PFAS is also water soluble, which means it can easily leak from affected sites, such as military bases and landfills, and contaminate our soil and drinking water supply.
A recent study found at least 1,582 sites in 49 states currently identified as in some way PFAS polluted, including military bases, municipal water supplies, and others.
There is mounting evidence that certain PFAS contamination is particularly dangerous to humans, as the toxic substances can interfere with the body’s hormones and immune system, and may play a role in certain cancers.
PFAS Health Effects
The accumulation of PFAS contamination in ground and drinking water, animals, and people can have significant and substantial adverse human health effects including:
- Kidney and Testicular Cancer
- Liver damage
- Thyroid disease
- Decreased fertility
- High cholesterol
- Hormone suppression
- Low birth weights
- And more
Source: Disease Registry
What Do PFAS Chemicals Do To The Body?
Exposure to PFAS contamination can lead to adverse public health outcomes in humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If humans or animals ingest per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, the "forever chemicals" are absorbed and can accumulate in the body. PFAS contamination stays in the human body for long periods of time.
As a result, as people are exposed to PFAS from different sources over time, the level of poly fluoroalkyl substances in their bodies may increase until they suffer adverse health effects.
Studies have found that perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects in humans and animals. Both forever chemicals have caused tumors in animal studies.
The most consistent findings from epidemiological studies are increased cholesterol levels among exposed populations, with additional findings related to infant birth weights, effects on the immune system, cancer (for perfluorooctanoic acid), and thyroid hormone disruption (for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid).
Animals studies have found effects on thyroid hormone disruption, reproductive organs and tissues, developing fetus, and kidney. Based on dose-response information, the thyroid appears to be particularly sensitive to oral exposure to PFAS.
PFAS and Cancer
The EPA has determined there is some evidence that PFAS contamination can cause cancer.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and state law have classified perfluorooctanoic acid as a potential human carcinogen (cancer-causing substance); however, there is currently no consistent scientific evidence that perfluorooctane sulfonic acid and perfluorooctanoic acid cause cancer in humans.
Some animal studies have suggested an increased risk of certain cancers, such as prostate, kidney, or testicular cancer.
Humans and animals often react differently to chemicals (including PFAS contamination) and not all the effects seen in animal tests may occur in humans.
Some increases in kidney, prostate, and testicular cancers have been seen in individuals exposed to higher PFAS contamination, mostly in occupational exposures.
Most of these exposures were in people who worked in, or lived near, PFAS manufacturing process facilities.
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What Does the Environmental Protection Agency Know About PFAS Blood Levels?
The CDC's National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals has found that serum levels of PFAS contamination appear to be higher in the United States than in some other countries.
For the average person in the U.S., the PFAS exposure level is 2,100 to 6,300 ng/L per liter of blood, which is equal to 30 to 90 shot glasses (1.5 oz) in approximately 150 million gallons of water contamination, according to the following statements.
These levels have been shown to be higher if a person’s drinking water source is contaminated with PFAS, or if a person is exposed at a workplace that produces the PFAS contamination.
Can PFAS Be Removed From the Body?
Currently, there are no medical monitoring procedures that can remove PFAS contamination from the body. However, the best step you can take is to remove the source of exposure to PFAS compounds from your environment.
While PFAS cannot be removed from the body, you should avoid packaged foods, PFAS-containing products, and non-stick cookware.
How are PFAS Regulated by the Government?
In recent years, several state and local governments have begun enforcing environmental laws against manufacturers and commercial users to compel them to clean up widespread exposure to PFAS.
In MDEQ v. Wolverine World Wide, Inc., the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) sued a shoe and boot manufacturer, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief directing it to:
- Investigate the extent and location of its releases;
- Develop and implement plans to sample and analyze affected drinking water sources, and
- Provide alternative safe drinking water to residents affected by the contamination.
MDEQ’s claims included a claim pursuant to the citizen’s enforcement provision of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), a claim under the state's natural resources, and a claim for common law nuisance.
In December 2019, the Michigan Department of State announced that the case had settled for $69.5 million. Several additional PFAS cases filed by state and local governments against manufacturers and commercial users remain pending.
Given the ubiquity of PFAS environmental contamination, and that the EPA has begun to focus on products that contain PFAS as a serious persistent environmental contaminant, additional enforcement actions are likely in the future.
What is the difference between these chemicals?
There are many products that contain PFAS, including GenX chemicals and PFBS in use across the United States.
GenX is a trade name for a technology that is used to make high performance fluoropolymers (certain non-stick coatings) without the use of perfluorooctanoic acid.
HFPO dimer acid and its ammonium salt are the major chemicals contained in GenX technology.
GenX toxic PFAS chemicals have been found in surface water, groundwater, finished drinking water, rainwater, and air emissions in some areas, according the EPA.
Perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS) has been used as a replacement chemical for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid.
PFBS is contained in environmental media and consumer products including surface water, wastewater, drinking water, dust, carpeting and carpet cleaners and floor wax.
- The State of Minnesota filed a lawsuit against 3M in 2010 alleging that the company’s production of PFAS chemicals in cleaning products damaged the state's natural resources, tap water and property values in military installations in the Twin Cities metro region. The claim was settled in Feb. 2018 for $850 million.
- At least 3,550 plaintiffs from West Virginia filed a suit against DuPont and the Chemours Company alleging that 210 occurrences of kidney cancer, 70 occurrences of testicular cancer, and 1,430 occurrences of thyroid disease were linked to PFAS contamination in tap water. The task force reached a $921 million settlement.
- Daikin America Inc., and 3M were sued over PFAS chemicals the companies used at their production plants in Decatur, Alabama. The West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority settled with Daikin for $4 million.
- Three proposed class action suits were filed by residents who consumed PFAS contaminated water from the Cape Fear River and wells near the Fayetteville Works Facility in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
- PFOS Water Contamination Suit
- Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) Lawsuit
- Tyco Fire Products Water Contamination Lawsuit
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PFAS Class Action Lawsuit
Since PFAS is a toxic chemical that has been in use for decades in the U.S., there is no one class-action lawsuit against PFAS manufacturers.
However, several high-profile class-action lawsuits have been filed over the past few years, with new PFAS lawsuits against manufacturers being filed regularly.
There is also a PFAS class-action lawsuit targeting several manufacturers of PFAS, including 3M, DuPont, Solvay, and others, which is potentially open to any people who have a detectable concentration of PFAS in their blood and claim to have injuries from PFAS exposure.
The lead plaintiff in this case is a firefighter.
Additionally, many states and municipal governments are filing suits against PFAS manufacturers and other responsible parties for polluting water and the environment, with some already calling PFAS the “new asbestos.”
What is a Fire Suppressant?
Firefighters, including those stationed at military bases and airports, use a particular type of chemical-based foam to extinguish fires more effectively.
Many of these products are made with toxic chemicals, perfluorooctane sulfonic acid and perfluorinated alkylated substances. These chemicals have been linked to various public health conditions, including an increased risk of cancer and stunted growth in children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Environmental Working Group (EWG) have reported that aqueous film-forming foam may be associated with cancer.
Many municipal fire departments have ceased using firefighter foam containing PFAS, but military bases throughout the country continue to use this foam concentrate.
What's the Problem?
U.S. military personnel have been using fire suppressant foam for almost 60 years and firefighters at airports were required by the Federal Aviation Administration to use the foam until 2018.
A local health department identified over 400 military sites that are potentially exposed to fire-fighting foams.
In 2018, a federal inquiry determined that PFAS are more dangerous than previously reported and prompted revised recommendations for safe levels of exposure to the compounds.
Lawsuits have been filed against fire suppressant foam manufacturers for failing to warn users that exposure to the chemicals contained in the foam could lead to various cancers.
The EPA announced that New Jersey filed a lawsuit against companies for knowingly producing and selling products containing toxic foam in New Jersey for decades.
According to the lawsuit, which asserts both environmental and consumer fraud claims, corporations manufactured and sold foam concentrate products that contain perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid chemicals to firefighters even though they were aware of the health and environmental risks posed by these chemicals when they are released into the environment.
- Kidney cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Breast cancer
- Neuroendocrine tumors
- Prostate cancer
- And more
Which Occupations are at Risk of Toxic Chemicals?
Airport and military firefighters are at particularly high risk for fire suppressant foam health hazards. Until 2020, the Biden Administration required airports to use PFAS-containing foam per U.S. Navy guidelines.
The Navy and other branches of the military have used National Foam Inc. since the 1960s, even during training exercises and non-critical missions.
Who Else May Be At Riske?
Individuals who are not employed in any of these high-risk occupations may also be exposed to fire suppressant foam.
Residents living in areas near firefighter foam use or disposal are also at risk of experiencing health effects.
Exposure to this kind of toxic chemicals may also result from groundwater contamination or the contamination of municipal water in areas that have been affected by foam.
Is Toxic Fire Suppressant Foam Still Used?
Unfortunately, toxic PFAS-based foam is still being used at a variety of airports across the country, both for military and commercial use.
However, the Department of Defense is researching safe PFAS-free foam alternatives and has limited the use of toxic fire suppressant foam for emergency responses.
How is the Toxic Chemicals Contaminating the Water?
Toxic fire suppressant foam gets into the environment once the foam is discharged and released during use and due to spills and leaks which occur in storage locations.
They can contaminate the soil, surface water, and groundwater, and the residual materials can enter drain systems and discharge to remote locations.
Are Lawsuits Being Filed?
Yes. A growing number of firefighters have filed lawsuits claiming that chemicals in fire suppressant foam have caused them to develop cancer, according to 2021 court filings.
In addition to individual lawsuits filed by current and former firefighters, a Texas man filed a class action over toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as well as contamination from facilities that use toxic fire suppressants in January 2021.
As of January 2021, there were more than 950 pending claims in multidistrict litigation in South Carolina district court under MDL-2873 IN RE: Aqueous Film-Forming Foams Products Liability Litigation Strategy. This number is up from 820 claims reported in DuPont’s annual report ending Dec. 31, 2020.
Injuries claimed in the lawsuits include breast cancer, ulcerative colitis, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cysts, tumors, and other illnesses.
Lawsuits say defendant companies — including 3M, DuPont, and Chemours — knew per and polyfluoroalkyl substances in its foam contained dangerous chemicals that could cause buildup in the body and result in adverse health effects.
In addition to individual injury lawsuits, several states have sued 3M and other manufacturers for PFAS contamination and cost of clean up.
Related Article: How Much Will Filing a Class Action Lawsuit Cost?
Have There Been Any Settlements?
The current litigation isn’t the first time companies have faced lawsuits related to dangerous chemicals in PFAS.
In 2017, DuPont and Chemours agreed to pay $670.7 million to settle 3,550 injury lawsuits stemming from perfluorooctanoic acid environmental pollution from the Washington Works Plant in West Virginia. The companies denied wrongdoing.
Since then, the companies have faced dozens more cases.
In March 2020, an Ohio jury said DuPont had to pay $50 million to Travis Abbot, a man who said perfluorooctanoic acid-contaminated drinking water led him to develop testicular cancer, according to Bloomberg.
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What Compensation Could I Be Awarded?
Our legal team strives to maximize compensation for exposure.
Claimants may be eligible for money damages to compensate for past and ongoing medical expenses, lost income, loss of future earnings, permanent disability, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium.
The specific facts of your case will determine the value of your lawsuit.
Multi-billion dollar manufacturers like DuPont and 3M have sold fire suppressant foams for decades, despite evidence that the product’s chemicals posed grave long-term risks to human health.
When companies place profits over consumer safety and fail to warn the public of known risks, they should be held accountable for their actions.
To be held liable for toxic fire suppressant foam exposure, it must be proven that the defendants were negligent in the design, testing, manufacturing, or marketing of their products, and that this negligence resulted in actual injuries and financial losses.
What Does it Cost to Hire a PFAS Attorney?
If you are thinking of filing a claim against a PFAS manufacturer, you might worry about the cost of hiring a PFAS attorney.
In a PFAS class-action lawsuit, the attorney fees are typically spread out among all plaintiffs.
In most cases, a court will determine court costs and attorney’s fees, and how they should be paid.
There are usually no up-front attorney’s fees for such cases, as the special assistant attorneys usually take their fee from any settlement recovered.
Therefore, joining in with a PFAS class-action lawsuit should not cost you anything out of your own pocket as any fees should come out of the general settlement for all plaintiffs.
Sometimes, the defendant is ordered to pay for the plaintiffs’ attorney’s fees and court costs.
If a class-action lawsuit is lost, the law firms typically do not receive any compensation as they usually work on a contingency basis.
Get a Free PFAS Lawsuit Evaluation With Our Lawyers
The Product Liability Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in PFAS Lawsuits. We are handling individual PFAS litigation nationwide and currently accepting new legal challenges in all 50 states.
If you or a loved one was injured by PFAS contamination, you should contact our law firm immediately for a free case evaluation. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a suit and we can help.