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Water treatment agencies and municipalities file claims over widespread toxic contamination: ‘It’s been in so many consumer goods’

“We have all these individuals who unknowingly were drinking contaminated water, or firefighters who were using all this [PFAS] foam all the time.”

"We have all these individuals who unknowingly were drinking contaminated water, or firefighters who were using all this [PFAS] foam all the time."

Photo Credit: iStock

A coalition of water treatment agencies and municipalities have filed claims against major chemical manufacturers, joining roughly 500 other pending cases in a multidistrict lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in South Carolina. 

What’s happening?

The Asbury Park Press reported that Bayer, Dupont, Tyco Fire Products, and Honey International are among the defendants named in the multidistrict suit alleging exposure to dangerous levels of toxic forever chemicals known as PFAs (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances). 

Brick, Toms River, and Wall are among the New Jersey towns that have already received proposed settlement agreements from “some of the largest manufacturers of the material” after water suppliers and firefighters alleged that their drinking water contained high levels of the chemicals.  

While the approval of the settlements is still pending, the payout reportedly wouldn’t prevent the water departments of those towns from joining the South Carolina suit, which is being handled by the Environmental Litigation Group. 

“We have all these individuals who unknowingly were drinking contaminated water, or firefighters who were using all this [PFAS] foam all the time. And they’ve got horrible cancers and horrible injuries,” said Yahn Olson, an attorney with the group. 

Notably, the firm dealing with the case said that the township of Wall had more than four times the “safe exposure limit” of PFAs listed by the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Why is this concerning?

As the name suggests, forever chemicals last a long, long time, and they are used in a variety of everyday products, including food packaging, nonstick cookware, electronics, and firefighting foam, as reported by the Park Press.  

“It’s been in so many consumer goods,” Olson said.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, PFAs have been found in at least 45% of tap water in the country, and the chemicals can build up in the body and cause significant damage.

A study published in the National Library of Medicine linked the chemicals to liver and kidney disease, immune system dysfunction, and reproductive issues, among other concerns. 

What is being done about PFAs?

3M, one of the defendants in the multidistrict suit, has said that it will stop creating PFAs by next year. It also reached a $10.3 billion settlement this summer to help clean up contaminated drinking water — a deal that company chairman Mike Roman told the Associated Press was “an important step forward.”

Dupont, another defendant named in the suit, agreed to an almost $1.2 billion payout along with Chemours and Corteva, as reported by the Park Press. 

Olson added that the multidistrict lawsuit will further help people get their voices heard. 

“If you took one plaintiff to claim they were exposed to PFAS and it led to cancer, they really wouldn’t have the resources to fight all these big [chemical] companies by themselves,” he told the Park Press. “So the big thing it does is it allows everybody to put their claims in once and fight together.”

In the meantime, you can protect yourself from PFAs by supporting brands that don’t contain the chemicals. Bringing your own reusable takeout containers to restaurants is another way to limit your potential exposure.

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