California sues over ‘forever chemicals’ that taint water
SAN FRANCISCO — A lawsuit filed Thursday by the state of California accuses 3M, Dupont and 16 smaller companies of covering up the harm caused to the environment and the public from chemicals manufactured by the firms that have over decades found their way into waterways and human bloodstreams.
Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the lawsuit against the manufacturers of compounds that have been used in consumer goods and industry since the 1940s. The chemicals are found in firefighting foams, nonstick frying pans, cleaning sprays, water-repellent sports gear, stain-resistant rugs, cosmetics and countless other products. Bonta stated that these so-called “forever chemicals” are so strong that they don’t degrade or slow down in the environment. They remain in a person’s bloodstream indefinitely.
The companies knew for decades that the chemicals are “toxic and harmful to human health and the environment, yet they continued to produce them for mass use and concealed their harms from the public,” Bonta said. He said that the court action follows a multiyear investigation which found that the companies were marketing products containing PFAS. This is short for polyfluoroalkyl compounds. It was known that these chemicals can cause cancer, development defects, and other health problems.
Minnesota-based 3M said in a statement after the court filing that it “acted responsibly in connection with products containing PFAS and will defend its record of environmental stewardship.”
Dupont, based in Delaware, said the company as it now exists should not have been named in the lawsuit.
“DuPont de Nemours was founded in 2019, as a multi-industrial specialty product company. DuPont de Nemours never manufactured PFOA or PFOS, nor firefighting foam. We don’t comment on litigation pending, but we believe these complaints lack merit, and the latest example where DuPont de Nemours has been improperly named in litigation,” the statement stated.
This lawsuit was filed in Alameda County and is the first statewide legal action regarding PFAS contamination.
It cites violations of state consumer protection laws and environmental statutes. It also invokes a federal law which establishes a way to recover the costs of cleaning up hazardous substances found in soil and water.
Bonta estimates that the lawsuit will result in hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties and cleanup costs.
U.S. companies have voluntarily eliminated compounds like PFAS but there are limited uses and chemicals that remain in the environment as they don’t degrade over time.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency invited states and territories to apply to $1 billion under the bipartisan infrastructure law. This law was created to address PFAS, and other contaminants in drinking waters. Officials stated that money can be used to provide technical assistance, water quality testing, contractor education, and the installation of central treatment.
The EPA warned that chemicals pose greater health risks than previously believed and can be detected at low levels.
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