Progress Made to Reduce Use of Forever Chemicals
Forever is usually a good thing. But when it comes to dangerous chemicals, forever is not desirable.
That’s why it’s good to see progress in the movement to remove per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from common usage. PFAS are also called forever chemicals because they never break down in the environment.
What are forever chemicals?
PFAS are man-made chemicals that have a special type of bond — and that bond is the reason they don’t break down. In organic compounds, carbon and hydrogen atoms bond together. In PFAS, the hydrogen is replaced with fluorine. The bond between those two atoms is the strongest of all carbon bonds.
These chemicals are used to provide non stick properties to materials. They are used in cookware, clothing, fast food packaging, construction materials, automotive lubricants, recreational products, and more. Because of their widespread application, nearly every person has been exposed to PFAS. They are absorbed into our bodies when we eat food that is prepared or packaged in PFAS-containing products. They enter groundwater and soil when PFAS-containing pesticides are used and when industrial waste is released from plants the manufacture and use these chemicals. And they enter the air we breathe through off-gassing from new carpets and upholstery.
What are the problems with PFAS?
PFAS are linked with certain health problems, such as:
- Fertility problems
- Low birth weight in babies
- Developmental delays in children
- Reduced ability to fight infection
What progress is being made to reduce PFAS?
The EPA has proposed new regulations that will reduce the use of certain PFAS in pesticides. In pesticides, PFAS can improve shelf life, make them easier to apply by limiting caking or foaming, or improve the effectiveness of the pesticide. The proposal would remove the listed chemicals from the approved ingredient list so that manufacturers would have to get permission to use any of them in future pesticide products.
This change, which is currently open for public comment, could greatly reduce the exposure to PFAS in our food supply, in soil and groundwater near farms, and for farm workers. The effort is part of a larger PFAS roadmap the EPA is using to help eliminate the risks to the public from the use of these chemicals.
Additionally, the state of Wisconsin has filed a lawsuit against companies involved in manufacturing and marketing PFAS. The lawsuit argues that PFAS has caused widespread contamination of the state’s natural resources. It also alleges that the companies named in the suit knew or should have known that the chemicals, when used correctly and appropriately, would cause public health concerns and environmental damage.
The lawsuit asks the defendants to recover the costs of investigating and cleaning up environmental damage and to take action to provide clean drinking water in areas affected by PFAS contamination. Buckeye Fire Equipment, DuPont, 3M,Tyco Fire Products, and BASF are among the defendants named in the Wisconsin lawsuit. There are also a set of unnamed defendants. Although some of the named defendants have stopped manufacturing products using PFAS, their history of creating these chemicals and releasing them into the environment led to the lawsuit.
A class-action lawsuit in Michigan against 3M and shoe manufacturer Wolverine Worldwide was recently settled for $54 million. This lawsuit claimed that 3M and Wolverine had contaminated the land and water affecting 1,700 properties in Michigan. With this settlement, these property owners’ compensation for the contamination and help ensure that these property owners have access to clean public water.
States have also begun enacting legislation banning or limiting the use of PFAS within their boundaries. Hawai’i banned the use of PFAS in food packaging and firefighting foam. California banned them in cosmetics and fabrics. And Maine banned all intentionally added PFAS, unless the chemical is necessary for health or safety and there are no alternatives.
Although these developments seem like a bit of a patchwork, when taken together the benefits can be great. And these actions can inspire further work to remove PFAS from use.
How We Help Victims of Chemical Exposure
Seek justice with the help of our experienced lawyers. Our Dallas, Texas, law firm has battled corporate giants on behalf of individuals like you for 20 years, aggressively fighting to hold them responsible for dangerous chemicals and the birth defects and personal injuries they cause. If you have a child with birth defects caused by dangerous products, we can help.