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Investigation levels serious accusations against North Carolina manufacturing plant: 'Apparent disregard for the wellbeing of community members'

"People who have certain types of PFAS exposure have health effects."

“People who have certain types of PFAS exposure have health effects."

Photo Credit: iStock

A team of independent experts appointed by a United Nations council has scary news for residents near the Cape Fear River in North Carolina.  

The watchdogs allege that chemical manufacturer Chemours (and four other parties) played a role in contaminating the environment as part of "alleged human rights" concerns with little government oversight, per the Guardian. 

The complaint is outlined in a 14-page letter from the UN to Chemours concerning forever chemicals, or PFAS, impacting "residents along the lower Cape Fear River." 

The company produces numerous products, including refrigerants, lubricants, and polymers, claiming to make "chemistry as responsible as it is essential."

What's happening? 

The UN's independent investigators allege that there's evidence the Fayetteville, North Carolina, plant has contaminated the "air, soil, water, and food supply" with little regulation, according to a report from the Guardian. 

What's worse, the watchdogs said that Chemours, an offshoot of DuPont, concealed PFAS dangers, per the news agency. It's not the first time that the industry has made headlines for the alleged suppression of bad PFAS news. 

"DuPont and Chemours have done little to assume responsibility," the letter from the UN stated. "We are especially concerned about DuPont and Chemours' apparent disregard for the wellbeing of community members, who have been denied access to clean and safe water for decades." 

For their part, Chemours officials said in the story that the company "has taken a broad and unprecedented set of actions, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, to eliminate almost all PFAS discharges from Fayetteville Works." 

The UN "does not formally make a final judgment" on whether human rights have been violated, but the organization may issue a statement, per the Guardian.

Why is it important? 

PFAS, or forever chemicals, are a class of thousands of toxins that take a long time to degrade naturally. 

The UN alleges that Chemours dumped chemicals into the Cape Fear River, sullying the drinking water "for hundreds of thousands of people." PFAS were also purportedly spewed in the air until 2019. Researchers found company chemicals in fish and crops, as well as in "97% of blood samples" from the region, all per the Guardian's report on the UN findings

The blood findings match other government studies regarding PFAS in our bodies, indicating the problem exists outside of Fayetteville. 

"North Carolina is the third highest state for PFAS exposure," East Carolina University's Dr. Jamie DeWitt said in a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences report on the matter from 2019. It cited Cape Fear PFAS contamination as early as 2007. 

"People who have certain types of PFAS exposure have health effects that include cancers, cholesterol diseases, pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia, and thyroid disease, among others," DeWitt said in the report. 

What's being done to help? 

Chemours plans to become "net-zero" by 2050 while "working to be good stewards of our natural resources through water stewardship, waste reduction, and biodiversity enhancement," per the company's website. 

With a little know-how, you can play the part of watchdog, helping to hold companies like Chemours accountable for their pledges. You can also prevent unwanted particles from entering your body, and save thousands of dollars, by changing the way you buy and use plastic and other products. 

Meanwhile, researchers are discovering natural solutions, like plastic-eating mushrooms, to deal with the unwanted pollution in our world.  

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