The state of New Hampshire is the most recent state to file a lawsuit against several companies, including 3M and Dupont, for their roles in the contamination of drinking water across the nation. They join a growing list of multiple other class-action and state lawsuits in the U.S.
The complaints allege that the companies “failed to warn of the dangers of their products.” They also claim that the companies knew that releasing the compounds into the environment “would make groundwater and surface water unfit for drinking.”1
The culprit of the contamination is perflourinated chemicals (PFAS for short, which are a group of more than 4,000 man made chemical compounds.) These chemicals compounds are a pervasive, if largely invisible, part of daily life. They exist in furniture, carpet, waterproof makeup and clothing, nonstick cookware, firefighter foam, popcorn bags and countless other items. PFAS are also an established water contaminant, tainting the drinking water of approximately 19 million people across 43 states.
In fact, PFOS (which is one of the more than 4,000 compounds that make up the group called PFAS) used in firefighter foam led to across the board contamination around airports, military bases and firefighter training facilities. To date, the Pentagon has discovered PFOS in both the groundwater and drinking water at 126 military bases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discovered PFAS in the blood of almost EVERY SINGLE person they tested.
Without a doubt, this problem is HUGE.
To understand what’s happening here, one has to understand the magnitude of the problem. Over the last decade, many US states—and countries around the world—have slowly realized they have a massive water contamination problem on their hands. PFAS were, and in some cases continue to be, widely used chemicals that do not degrade in the environment, and the health effects of exposure to elevated levels of it are just beginning to be understood.1
Dupont and 3M knew of the potential health risks of PFAS but chose not to alert the public. We now know that PFAS are very persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time. Elevated exposure leads to a greater risk of developmental delays, infertility and cancer. A study in Veneto, Italy revealed that young men residing close to a PFAS site had smaller penises and lower sperm count.
New Hampshire’s lawsuit is focused on firefighting foam. The suit names Chemguard, Chemours Co. (a spin-off of DuPont), DuPont, 3M as well as several firefighting foam retailers “at fault for endangering public welfare through their products.” 1 They cite groundwater contamination at several fire stations across the state and near the Pease Air Force base.
New York and New Jersey already have ongoing lawsuits against DuPont, 3M and other companies that manufactured and used PFAS compounds. Two years ago DuPont and Chemours agreed to pay $671 million dollars to settle a lawsuit with 3,500 residents in Ohio and West Virginia for polluting an area around a manufacturing plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia.
Individuals exposed to PFAS-contaminated water have filed class-action suits in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Michigan and New York. And a class-action lawsuit was filed last year against 3M, DuPont and Chemours on behalf of everyone in the United States who has been exposed to PFAS contamination. North Carolina settled its lawsuit in 2018 for $13 million dollars, along with a stipulation that Chemours provide “permanent replacement drinking water supplies” for residents whose wells were contaminated.1
There is tremendous fear, anxiety, and uncertainty across the country as to the serious public health threat posed by PFAS contamination, and it is clearly justified. We will update you as we learn more.