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PFAS Water Contamination

PFAS Water Contamination

What is PFAS Water Contamination?

The country is facing a contamination crisis with the long-term and widespread use of “forever chemicals.” Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a family of man-made chemicals encompassing hundreds of substances, including PFOS and PFOA. PFAS chemicals are toxic but extremely stable. They also do not biodegrade over time.. The unique properties of these chemicals make them both well suited as one of the primary components of a variety of products commonly sold, distributed and used throughout the United States, and problematic for the environment PFAS has been commonly used in products ranging from Scotchguard and Teflon products, fire fighting foam, and car wash and wax products.

PFAS chemicals are both hydrophobic and oleophobic, making many PFAS effective surfactants or surface protectors, which, for example, allow fire foam to float on water while repelling combustible liquids and provide moisture repelling properties for car wax. However, these same unique properties also make it a potent pollutant. Because PFAS chemicals are so persistent, they do not break down in the environment or the human body. They also accumulate over time. PFAS chemicals have been linked to numerous human health effects, such as low infant birth weights, immune system suppression, thyroid hormone disruption, and cancer.

Critically, PFAS chemicals are not naturally occurring and multiple incidents throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s alerted (or should have alerted) manufacturers to the dangers of PFAS chemicals, to the extended presence of PFAS chemicals, and to their ability to spread throughout the environment and into the human body. Despite having this knowledge of the dangers of their own products, manufacturers sold products containing PFAS chemicals through multiple streams of commerce through a variety of industrial and household products. As a result, PFAS is found across the country in drinking water supplies, drinking water wells, wastewater, soil and biosolids generated at wastewater treatment facilities. According to a senior official with the U.S. Center for Disease Control, PFAS chemicals are “one of the most seminal public health challenges for the next decades.”

On June 15, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released four drinking water health advisories for PFAS. The EPA is issuing interim, updated drinking water health advisories for PFOA and PFOS that replace those EPA issued in 2016. For the first time, the EPA is issuing final health advisories for perfluorobutane sulfonic acid and its potassium salt (PFBS) and for hexafluoropropylene oxide (HFPO) dimer acid and its ammonium salt (“GenX” chemicals).” The new HALs are .02 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOS .004 ppt for PFOA, 10 ppt for GenX, and 2000 ppt for PFBS. This is clearly a major step forward by the EPA in its efforts to address PFAS contamination. This significant new guidance from the EPA creates a compelling need for affected communities to test for and remediate these forever chemicals.

A solution to this problem exists, but it will be complex and expensive. At Cossich, Sumich, Parsiola and Taylor, we believe that this burden should lie with those who caused the problem. In re: Aqueous Film-Forming Foam Products Liability Litigation, MDL-2873, is before the Honorable Richard M. Gergel in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina. This Multi-district Litigation Panel focuses specifically on certain PFAS containing products, which account for a significant portion of PFAS chemical litigation. However, PFAS contamination can also occur through other avenues, such as localized pollution by chemical factories. Whether PFAS contamination results from the use of AFFF, or from the use of other non-AFFF products, Cossich, Sumich, Parsiola & Taylor stand ready to make sure that those responsible are held accountable in a court of law.

Additional References:
EPA Announces New Drinking Water Health Advisories for PFAS Chemicals
Technical Fact Sheet: Drinking Water Health Advisories for Four PFAS