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PFAS & PFOA Water Contamination and Firefighter Lawsuits on the Rise

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PFAS & PFOA Cancer Risk Awareness Opens Floodgates to Water Contamination Lawsuits and Firefighter lawsuits, targeting Dupont and other chemical companies

Santa Clara, CATownships and municipalities nationwide are filing environmental lawsuits against manufacturers such as Raytheon Technologies, Chemours, DuPont and 3M Co. for adding PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) into the water supply. These chemicals are allegedly toxic and have been linked to certain cancers. As well, former firefighters continue to file lawsuits against makers of AFFF firefighting foams, alleging a link to cancer.

PFAS Water Contamination Lawsuits

The Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency in October 2020 filed a lawsuit against multiple companies over water contamination, on the heels of North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein’s lawsuit. Stein says chemical companies that produce PFAS need to be held accountable for contaminating the state’s natural resources. Both lawsuits target Dupont as a major PFAS contributor. Many other similar environmental lawsuits claiming toxic water contamination expect to be filed.

PFAS Forever Chemicals

PFAS are considered ‘forever chemicals’ because they are projected to take thousands of years to degrade. One report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found PFAS in the blood of 97 percent of Americans. A more recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey indicated a reduction in blood levels of PFOS and PFOA since their removal from consumer products in the early 2000s, but the number of new PFAS chemicals appears to be growing as new products are developed. Exposure to these new chemicals is difficult to assess accurately but studies have shown their ability to enter and stay in the environment and human body through the air, dust, food, soil, and water. PFAS typically settle into the blood, kidney and liver.  

Bottled Water and FDA

The FDA says that bottled water does not contain PFAS but in September 2020 Consumer Reports found detectable levels of the chemicals, which have been linked to cancer and developmental delays in children, in 43 of the 47 products it tested.

The FDA based their findings – denial of PFAS – on limited testing it did in 2016 analyzing samples of 30 carbonated and non-carbonated brands from retailers in the Washington, D.C., area. Further, the FDA used a testing method that had a detection limit of 4 ppt—meaning any level of PFAS below that would not register, according to Consumer Reports. And a lot can happen in four years, including the FDA’s ability to test bottled water for “29 different PFAS chemicals with better sensitivity than in the previous study.”

As well, Consumer Reports unearthed a letter from the FDA dated December 2019, which shows the agency believed setting limits on PFAS was unnecessary

David Andrews, senior scientist with the Environmental Working Group, says “This entire family of PFAS is a significant concern, and they should not be in tap water or bottled water. He finds it ironic that the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) requested last year that the FDA set limits on the compounds.

Water Contamination and Fire Foam

Consumer Reports, along with other investigators, have indicated for some years that Aqueous Film-Forming Foams (AFFFs) are a main cause of PFAS water contamination in the U.S.  They have been found to contaminate waters sources near military bases, airports and other locations where the anti-fire foam is regularly used. These AFFFs used over previous years contained a number of PFAS chemicals that could leach into waters supplies around these locations.

Now that the public has become increasingly aware of AFFF risks, particularly amongst former firefighters and their families, firefighting foam lawsuits are on the rise, claiming toxic chemicals in the foam cause pancreatic cancer, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, and other injuries. These AFFF lawsuits allege the manufacturers of these aqueous film-forming foams knew or should have known about their health and environmental risks for decades.


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