Called “forever chemicals,” synthetic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), or perflourinated chemicals, accumulate and are persistent in the environment. The bioaccumulation of these chemicals in ground and drinking water, animals, people and the agricultural products they consume can have significant and substantial adverse consequences.
Military bases, manufacturers, wastewater treatment plants and other facilities have been identified as sources of PFAS environmental contamination throughout the country. Communities near these facilities have suffered significant damages to property, natural resources and potential adverse health effects as a result of negligent disposal practices, for which the responsible parties should be held accountable.
Studies conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have established that these chemicals are highly toxic and hazardous to the environment and human health. PFAS chemicals have the ability to travel long distances, contaminating groundwater. According to the CDC, the mobility of PFAS increases the likelihood that communities around PFAS manufacturing, or facilities using PFAS containing chemicals, are likely to be adversely impacted.
For decades, our attorneys have advocated on behalf of people, communities and public entities, impacted by large-scale environmental toxic exposures. Motley Rice attorneys are reviewing and investigating allegations of harm to communities impacted by PFAS chemicals, and are Liaison Counsel for multidistrict litigation targeting aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), a common firefighting suppressant. In that litigation Motley Rice represents municipalities and counties whose water supplies have been contaminated with AFFF (PFAS).
Contact a toxic exposure attorney
States, cities, counties and towns may have claims if their local water source or land is contaminated by PFAS. Motley Rice has a long history of working with public entities, including states, counties and other municipalities navigate complex litigations. If you believe you have a claim, contact attorney Esther Berezofsky by email or call 1.800.768.4026.
PFAS contamination and health effects
PFAS chemicals have been used since the 1950s to provide grease, water and oil resistant properties to consumer products. Common uses include non-stick coating on cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain-resistant fabrics and carpets, firefighting foams, and even some cosmetics. Wrongfully disposing of PFAS chemicals, including dumping the toxin into water sources and soil can lead to widespread contamination.
Repeated exposure to PFAS, including through drinking water, food grown in contaminated soil or packaged in contaminated materials, as well as the biodegradation of consumer products, causes them to accumulate in the body, without the ability to break down, according to the CDC.
The CDC has reported that studies of humans with PFAS exposure have shown a number of severe health complications, including:
- Increased risk of certain cancers
- Effects on growth, and behavioral effects in infants and older children
- Reduced chances of pregnancy
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Resistance to childhood vaccines
The manufacture and use of PFAS products has prompted litigation throughout the country. In addition to our AFFF casework, our attorneys are investigating claims related to crop damage from PFAS on behalf of public entities, in addition to representing residents of Kent County, Mich., in a class action and individual plaintiff actions alleging toxic waste from footwear manufacturer Wolverine World Wide and 3M Company contaminated residential wells and drinking water with PFAS chemicals for decades.
Outside of Motley Rice’s casework, other PFAS cases pending throughout the country include:
- The State of Minnesota sued 3M in 2010, alleging that the company’s production of PFAS chemicals damaged drinking water and natural resources in the southeast Twin Cities metro area. The lawsuit was settled in February 2018 for $850 million.
- 3,550 plaintiffs from the mid-Ohio Valley in West Virginia filed suit alleging that 210 occurrences of kidney cancer, 70 occurrences of testicular cancer, and 1,430 occurrences of thyroid disease were linked to chemical exposure. The plaintiffs settled with DuPont and the Chemours Company for $921 million.
- Daikin America Inc., and 3M were sued over chemicals the companies used in the production process at their Decatur, Ala., facilities. The West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority settled with Daikin for $4 million.
- The state of New York filed a complaint against manufacturers of AFFF in June 2018, alleging groundwater contamination in Newburgh, New Windsor, Suffolk County, Plattsburgh, and Rome, N.Y.
- Several lawsuits have been filed in North Carolina by the North Carolina Department of Justice, the Department of Environmental Quality, Brunswick County, and the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, against manufacturer of GenX. Three class actions on behalf of residents who consumed PFAS contaminated water from the Cape Fear River and wells near the Fayetteville Works Facility in Fayetteville, N.C., have also been filed.
EPA PFAS regulation
Perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) are the two most commonly used and studied PFAS compounds, with PFOA being produced by eight major companies in the United States:
- Solvay Solexis
3M is the sole producer of PFOS in the United States. These and other companies use PFOA and PFOS to manufacture certain fluorosurfactants known for their repellant qualities, such as DuPont’s Teflon and 3M’s Scotchgard.
The EPA states that it is “committed to supporting states, tribes and local communities” that are addressing challenges caused by PFAS exposure near manufacturing sites and other contaminated locations. While the agency has taken steps to address the presence of PFAS in drinking water, including announcing new methods to test for the chemicals in December 2019, it has not fully regulated PFAS chemicals.
In February 2019, the EPA released a PFAS Action Plan, in which it stated plans to move forward with a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) process for PFOS and PFOA, which will set a legal threshold on the amount of PFOS and PFOA allowed in public water systems under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The EPA also plans to propose nationwide drinking water monitoring, and will work with federal, state, tribal, and local partners to effectively communicate PFAS risks to the public. The EPA is also considering adding PFAS chemicals to the Toxics Release Inventory, which would make information about reports of certain PFAS releases publicly available.
Motley Rice attorneys have worked for decades to improve public health and safety when threatened by corporate negligence and misconduct. In the 1990’s Motley Rice co-founders Ron Motley (1944-2013) and Joe Rice represented more than two dozen state attorneys general and other public entities in litigation against Big Tobacco. The litigation resulted in the $246 billion Master Settlement Agreement, the largest civil settlement in U.S. history. The resolution also included reimbursement to the states for publicly funded health care costs and advertising and sponsorship restrictions on the tobacco companies.
Joe Rice also served as a co-lead negotiator for two settlements with BP regarding the “Deepwater Horizon” oil spill, one of which is the largest civil class action settlement in U.S. history. The firm’s attorneys and co-counsel also worked for 18 years to advance and preserve litigation through to the U.S. Supreme Court that will require lead pigment companies to fund the removal of toxic lead paint from pre-1951 constructed homes in plaintiffs’ jurisdictions in California, enhancing the safety of millions of California children and families.
Related PFAS news
AP (Sept. 14, 2023): Firefighters fear the toxic chemicals in their gear could be contributing to cancer cases
Politico (Aug. 16, 2022): Forever chemicals are seeping through the courts
WHNT19 (Jan. 28, 2020): 3M Decatur received federal grand jury subpoena related to unauthorized chemical dumping
EPA (Dec. 19, 2019): EPA Announces New Method to Test for Additional PFAS in Drinking Water
Military Times (Nov. 20, 2019): The list of military sites with suspected ‘forever chemicals’ contamination has grown
Detroit Free Press (April 26, 2019): PFAS contamination is Michigan's biggest environmental crisis in 40 years
NPR (April 22, 2019): Scientists Dig Into Hard Questions About The Fluorinated Pollutants Known As PFAS
The New York Times (Feb. 22, 2019): Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’ in Drinking Water Leave Military Families Reeling
NPR (Feb. 14, 2019): EPA Says It Plans To Limit Toxic PFAS Chemicals, But Not Soon Enough For Critics
CNN (Feb. 14, 2019): What are PFAS chemicals, and what are they doing to our health?
Motley Rice LLC, a South Carolina Limited Liability Company, is engaged in the New Jersey practice of law through Motley Rice New Jersey LLC. Esther Berezofsky attorney responsible for New Jersey practice.