What is PFOA?
Perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA or C8, is in a category of chemicals along with PFAS. They are also known as “forever chemicals” because they don't easily break down in the human body or nature. PFOA found in firefighting foams and has been used to make many products, from Teflon for non-stick cookware to furniture to carpet flooring. PFOA has also been found in waterways, wells and soils in Southeast Ohio. Forever chemicals are associated with certain cancers including kidney and testicular cancer , hormonal dysfunction, thyroid problems, low birth weight and high cholesterol and other health issues. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has called PFAS an “urgent public health and environmental issue," and has taken steps to regulate PFAS, including in drinking water.
DeWine filed the lawsuit in 2018 against DuPont and Chemours in the Washington County Common Pleas Court when he was the Ohio Attorney General. According to Law360, throughout the litigation, Ohio accused E.I. Du Pont De Nemours And Co., which split into DuPont, Corteva and the Chemours Co., of releasing PFOA-containing emissions and discharges into the air and the Ohio River through its manufacture of Teflon products between the 1950s and 2013, despite knowing of the chemical's risks to human health and the environment, the state said in its press release.
From the 1950s until 2013, DuPont made Teflon products using PFOA, which persists in water and soil and resists the typical environmental degradation process. But PFOA has been connected to kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, low birth weight and high cholesterol.
DuPont de Nemours, Corteva and the Chemours Co. said in late November that they agreed to the settlement to end claims of over 70 years worth of "forever chemical" contamination tied to a Teflon facility in bordering West Virginia. Chemours and Corteva are two companies that spun off of DuPont. Chemours said it would be responsible for half of the settlement costs, DuPont would provide about $39 million, and Corteva is expected to cover the rest.
The state of Delaware said that the Ohio deal triggered a contingency provision in its own 2021 PFAS settlement with the companies, which requires them to pay the state an additional $25 million on top of the $50 million in its original deal, reported Reuters. The provision required extra payment if the companies reached a similar settlement to the one with Delaware within eight years with any other state for more than $50 million.
This settlement creates an environmental restoration fund and allocates the money three separate ways — 80% to address pollution from the Washington Works plant, 16% to address damages from firefighting foam and 4% to mitigate damages to natural resources.“With this funding, we will be able to continue our work to ensure that water systems in our state are supplying drinking water that is below an acceptable standard of PFAS,” DeWine said. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said, “This was not a slam dunk of a legal case…I think this is the absolute best we could have done without a jury trial.”
"DuPont ignored the fact that the chemicals they were releasing were toxic, and this settlement ensures that they are held responsible for the pollution they knowingly caused to the environment," DeWine said. "I applaud Attorney General Yost for aggressively pursuing this case and for bringing it to a successful conclusion."
The case is State of Ohio et al. v. E.I. Du Pont De Nemours And Co. et al., case number 180T32, in the Court of Common Pleas for Washington County, Ohio.
Other “Forever Chemicals” Lawsuits and Settlements
Chemical makers have faced thousands of lawsuits in recent years over alleged PFAS contamination. On November 27, a U.S. appeals court rejected a lower court's ruling that would have allowed about 11.8 million Ohio residents as a group to sue 10 PFAS manufacturers. The court found lead plaintiff Kevin Hardwick filed too broad a complaint against the manufacturers, and had not shown per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, found in his body could be traced directly to the defendants such as units of 3M, DuPont and others. Reuters reported that Hardwick’s lawsuit is among thousands that have been filed against 3M, DuPont and others in recent years over alleged PFAS contamination.
READ MORE PFAS HEALTH RISKS LEGAL NEWS
This settlement is in addition to the millions of dollars DuPont has paid out to thousands of personal injury lawsuits, DeWine said. DuPont and Chemours agreed in February 2017 to pay almost $671 million to settle 3,500 lawsuits filed in federal district courts over contamination from the plant near Parkersburg. Since then, the three companies also agreed to pay an additional $83 million to settle multidistrict litigation in Ohio over the pollutant in January 2021 and jointly committed $4 billion to cover liabilities for their past use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in a memorandum of understanding, reported Law360.