PFAS Contamination Lawsuits
PFAS and PFAS products manufacturers 3M and DuPont, along with other companies, are facing numerous lawsuits filed by state and municipal agencies, school districts, and other groups related to PFAS contamination caused by firefighting foam and PFAS in consumer products and industrial applications. The lawsuits seek natural resource damages and compensation for remediating water contamination caused by PFAS and PFAS products. These chemicals have been responsible for contaminating drinking water, groundwater, soil, and other natural resources and are considered toxic to humans.
Companies named in the lawsuits include:
- 3M Company
- I. du Pont de Nemours and Company
- The Chemours Company
- The Chemours Company FC, LLC
- Corteva, Inc.
- DuPont de Nemours, Inc.
- Chemguard, Inc.
- Tyco Fire Products L.P.
- National Foam, Inc.
- Buckeye Fire Equipment Company
- Kidde-Fenwal, Inc.
What are PFAS Chemicals?
PFAS are a class of human-made chemicals that are not found in nature. They include chemicals such as:
- perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)
- perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS)
- perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA)
- perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS)
- perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA)
PFAS chemicals are a major environmental concern as they are “forever chemicals” that may take decades or even longer to degrade. They have been used in a variety of applications and products including aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), industrial chemicals like paints, consumer products such as non-stick cookware, and have been found as contaminants in cosmetic and personal care products.
On August 26, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed designating PFOA and PFOS as “hazardous substances” under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), also known as the Superfund law. The proposed rule change would require companies to report to the government when PFAS chemicals contaminate water or soil and would strengthen the EPA’s ability to clean up contaminated sites and hold companies responsible for cleanup costs.
3M and DuPont Downplayed Dangers of PFAS
3M and DuPont were the largest manufacturers and suppliers of PFOA and PFOS in the United States. 3M began manufacturing PFAS in the 1940s and continues to produce these chemicals today. DuPont, which was later split into multiple companies, manufactured PFOA from 2002 until about 2013.
Prior to discontinuing the manufacturing of PFOA and PFOS, internal corporate documents indicate they these companies were aware of the dangers of PFAS chemicals. In 1999, a 3M scientist stated that PFOS (a type of PFAS) is likely “the most insidious pollutant” and may be “more damaging than PCB” (pollutant Polychlorinated biphenyl, which was outlawed in 1979). Similarly, a DuPont lawyer indicated that PFAS persistence in the environment “will kill us.” Though both companies were urged to act responsibly, they chose to conceal information on the toxicity of PFAS from the public while continuing to profit from production and sales of PFAS and PFAS products.
PFAS Impact on Health
PFAS are known to be toxic to animals and humans and can result in a number of potentially serious health effects. Though PFAS exposure may occur in many different ways, the most common source is contaminated drinking water, either through ingestion or skin exposure. As “forever chemicals,” PFAS do not break down in the environment and certain PFAS may become more concentrated as time progresses due to bioaccumulation. The chemicals are often odorless and colorless, and exposure may not be apparent until illness has already progressed.
PFAS are associated with health effects including:
- Liver Damage
- Intestinal Damage
- Birth defects and developmental disabilities
- Immune system suppression
- Kidney and Testicular Cancer
- Thyroid and metabolic disruption
States File PFAS Lawsuits Against PFAS Manufacturers
Multiple state and municipal agencies have filed lawsuits against 3M, DuPont, and other PFAS or AFFF products manufacturers. These lawsuits seek compensation for damages related to PFAS contamination of water supplies and natural resources.
Vermont and Maine have each filed two lawsuits against product manufacturers – one to address PFAS contamination from consumer products and industrial applications, and the second to address PFAS contamination from firefighting foam.
The Vermont and Maine lawsuits both allege that 3M and DuPont manufactured and supplied PFAS products into those states, while concealing information from the public about their safety. The lawsuits allege the companies are responsible for contamination of drinking water, groundwater, surface water, wildlife, soil, and sediment, and seek natural resource damages and other compensation for this contamination.
Other PFAS Lawsuits and Settlements
Other states, public drinking water systems, municipalities, school districts, and water boards also have filed lawsuits against PFAS and PFAS product manufacturers and suppliers. A number of personal injury cases have also been filed.
Recently settled cases for PFAS contamination include:
- February 2018 – 3M settled with the state of Minnesota for $850 million to resolve allegations that the company’s production of PFAS damaged drinking water and natural resources in the Twin Cities metropolitan area
- February 2020 – 3M reached a $55 million settlement with Wolverine shoe company in Michigan industrial waste dumping
- January 2021 – Dupont, Chemours and Corteva reached $83 million personal injury claim settlement in a 93-case Ohio multi-district lawsuit
- April 2021 – 3M agreed to pay $12.5 million in Bemidji, Michigan to pay for water contamination cleanup
Separately, several class-action lawsuits have been filed against cosmetics companies whose products may have contained PFAS without warning to consumers. Cosmetics and personal care class action lawsuits have included mascara, lipstick, foundations, hair spray, dry shampoos, sunscreens, and other products.
Holding PFAS Polluters Accountable
3M and DuPont knew about the dangers of PFAS chemicals, and the lawsuits allege that they had an obligation to warn governments and the public. Because of their choice to conceal the truth, communities across the United States are now forced to grapple with how to clean up PFAS pollution contaminating their soil and water. Seeger Weiss has extensive experience representing state and local governments in complex environmental litigation. Our firm is the perfect partner to provide support and guidance through the process of holding PFAS polluters accountable and restoring natural resources and property from widespread contamination.