With the current water crisis in Flint, Michigan making national headlines, the public has never been more concerned over the safety of its drinking water. Many people, however, are unaware that other chemicals, in addition to lead, can be just as harmful and could present a more widespread problem.
Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are a group of man-made chemicals most commonly used to make stain-resistant carpet, clothing, and other fabrics as well as in firefighting foams used at airfields and in a number of industrial processes. PFC’s are slow to degrade in the environment and, as a result, can persist and accumulate over a period of time, eventually migrating to various sources of drinking water.
Residents in one Philadelphia community sued 3M, the manufacturer of these chemicals, alleging that they migrated from two former naval airbases into their drinking water. 3M is facing a trio of consolidated class actions alongside other defendants, such as Tyco International, for manufacturing a firefighting foam that contains the cancer-causing chemicals perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). The firefighting foam was used in training activities at the two former naval facilities and has been used at airfields and other military basis nationwide.
3M said that the plaintiffs could not support a negligence claim because it had no way of knowing that the foam would eventually make its way into the residents’ water supplies, accumulate for decades and ultimately pose any health risks. In its motion to dismiss, Tyco International argued that the Navy’s work with governmental authorities to remedy the contamination precluded any involvement by private parties under a provision of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).
Because the carbon-flourine bonds in PFOA and PFOS are stable, they do not breakdown over time and can readily be absorbed and accumulate in humans after repeated exposure. The C8 Health Project, an independent science panel, determined that kidney and testicular cancers have a “probable link” to PFOA exposure while other epidemiological studies also link ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, and pregnancy-induced hypertension to these chemicals.
In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency added PFOS and PFOA to a contaminant candidate list and established a provisional health advisory for those compounds. Then, in 2012, the EPA included those compounds in its Third Unregulated Contaminant Rule, requiring certain water providers across the country to test for their presence. On May 19, 2016, the EPA issued a new drinking water health advisory for PFOS and PFOA at 70 parts per trillion over one’s lifetime.
The issuance of these new guidelines left many water systems nationwide over the lifetime limit and scrambling to address the problem. Lawsuits have been filed across the country to ensure that clean and uncontaminated water is delivered to the public. Our firm is representing Gadsden’s Water Works and Sewer Board and is seeking remediation costs and injunctive relief.
If you have any questions about PFOA or PFOS contamination, contact Rhon Jones, Rick Stratton, Grant Cofer, or Ryan Kral, lawyers in our firm’s Toxic Torts section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Rhon.Jones@BeasleyAllen.com, Rick.Stratton@BeasleyAllen.com, Grant.Cofer@BeasleyAllen.com or Ryan.Kral@BeasleyAllen.com.
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