California sues makers like 3M and DuPont over toxic ‘eternal chemicals’

SACRAMENTO – On November 10, California Attorney General Rob Bonta filed a complaint against chemical companies like 3M and DuPont for endangering public health, and harming and destroying the state’s natural resources with the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.

In the lawsuit, Bonta alleges that manufacturers knew PFAS were toxic but continued to produce them while hide your risks public.

“Toxic PFAS are contaminating California’s water, food, soil and air,” said Bill Allayaud, California director of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group. “Forever chemicals are used in countless consumer products – from personal care to textiles to food packaging.”

“PFAS polluters have to pay to contaminate our state and our bodies with these insidious chemicals,” he added.

States and consumers have sought redress from the courts as they have become more aware of the staggering costs of treating water for PFAS contamination and the many health harms associated with these toxic compounds.

The California lawsuit is seeking damages from 18 companies and asking them to pay for treating drinking water and wastewater systems for PFAS across the state. It is also seeking funding for environmental testing for PFAS, medical surveillance, and the safe disposal and destruction of chemicals.

PFAS have been detected in public water systems serving more than 16 million Californians.

Separately, attorneys general in 15 other states have each sued companies allegedly responsible for the PFAS contamination, seeking damages for pollution damage. Minnesota settled with 3M for $850 million in 2018. Delaware also reached an agreement.

Meanwhile, more than 6,400 PFAS Lawsuits were filed in federal court between July 2005 and March 2022.

“PFAS contamination is a national crisis,” said Melanie Benesh, EWG’s Vice President of Government Affairs. “The scale of contamination is staggering – the more we test, the more we find.”

“It was manufacturers like 3M and DuPont that brought us here today. They have known for 70 years that they were poisoning the water and that they hadn’t told the EPA. They didn’t tell anyone because they were making too much money,” she added.

In the absence of enforceable federal standards, California has been hard-hitting in its efforts to regulate PFAS.

In 2019, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, or OEHHA, proposed bold limits regulate PFAS in drinking water. The public health goals of the state submitted for public reviewwould limit the amounts in drinking water of the two most notorious PFAS compounds: PFOA, formerly used to make DuPont’s Teflon, and PFOS, a former ingredient in 3M’s Scotchgard.

State environmental health officials recommend a health protection limit of 7 parts per quadrillion for PFOA and 1 part per trillion, or ppt, for PFOS.

California also recently addressed the PFAS problem with tough new laws. In 2020, it was the first state to ban 13 PFAS from personal care products. That year it also banned the use of PFAS in most applications of fire fighting foam. Last year, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law historical bill banning the use of PFAS in children’s products, as well as banning these chemicals in food packaging.

In September, Newsom signed a law banning the sale in California of personal care products like cosmetics containing Intentionally added PFAS.

“California has repeatedly stood up for public health and the protection of its residents from unnecessary new exposure to toxic PFAS,” Allayaud said.

“We commend Attorney General Bonta for taking action against these polluters. California has the fifth largest economy in the world and the largest population of any state, and the Attorney General is acting to protect our people, our economy and our environment,” he said.

PFAS are called “eternal chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment and build up in our blood and organs. They are among the most persistent toxic compounds that exist.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fluorinated chemicals contaminate the body of Almost all Americans. Very low doses of PFAS in drinking water have been linked to a range of serious health problems. Some PFAS have been associated with a higher risk of harm the immune systemsuch as reduced vaccine effectiveness; harm development and the reproductive systemsuch as reduced birth weight and impacts on fertility; increased risk of certain cancers, such as breast cancer; and metabolic effects, such as changes in cholesterol and weight gain.

In June, the EPA proposed a new lifetime health insurance notice for four PFAS compounds in water.

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The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that enables people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy, and unique educational tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.

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