The “forever chemicals” are everywhere, even in the blood of Californians.
Attorney General Rob Bonta announced on Nov. 10 that the state of California will bring a lawsuit against DuPont, 3M, and 15 other named defendants for causing “the widespread toxic contamination of California” and marketing defective products without proper warnings about their use.
The per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the lawsuit, describe a number of man-made chemicals found in a wide variety of consumer products. There are over 9,000 types of PFAS. Bonta named seven specific substances in the lawsuit as culprits for contaminating all drinking water sources in California.
These compounds are referred to as “forever chemicals” as they do not break down easily in nature and over time build up in the human body, in a bioaccumulation for populations exposed to the PFAS.
PFOS, solely produced by 3M, were used in the manufacture of leather products, carpets, upholstered furniture, rugs, and non-stick cookware They are in some airport fire-fighting foams, military airfields and firefighter training grounds. As a result of this widespread use, they leach into groundwater from landfills, industrial sites, water treatment facilities and locations such as airports where the foam was used.
PFOS was replaced in 2000 with Perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS) because of the concern for the resilience of PFOS and its longevity in the environment and mammals.
PFOA, like PFOS, is used in fire fighting foam, stain resistant carpet, paper and cardboard packaging, water-repellent clothing and ski wax.
Perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), another acid of the PFAS family, is used to treat many commercial products and is found in clothing, non-woven medical garments, home textile and upholstery, commercial carpet-care liquids, floor waxes, stone and wood sealants, food contact paper, agrochemical, pharmaceutical and dyestuff field.
PFNA is used in the manufacture of non-stick teflon-like products and products with stain repellents.
Bonta’s complaint asserts that PFAS contributed to a number of diseases including various cancers, liver diseases, adverse pregnancy outcomes, delayed puberty, reduced immune system responses, infertility, reduced bone density in children, diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. He is seeking redress not just for the affected population but also for the environment.
“For decades, PFAS manufacturers were aware of these chemicals’ toxicity, persistence, and prevalence in humans, but chose to deliberately mislead the government and the public,” a press release by Bonta on Nov. 10 stated. “Yet even after 3M ceased manufacturing PFOS in response to pressure from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it worked to control and distort the science on PFAS and to minimize their dangers to the environment and human health.”
A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found 97% of Americans had PFAS in their blood. It is detectable in 98% of Californians according to the attorney general.
The complaint went on to state ‘To this day, 3M continues to publicly claim that the “weight of scientific evidence from decades of research does not show that PFOS or PFOA causes harm in people at current or past levels.” These statements contradict decades of research demonstrating the serious health and environmental effects of PFAS, including internal studies conducted by 3M’s own scientists.’
Bonta’s press statement further states “The lawsuit also seeks payment of funds necessary to mitigate the impacts to human health and the environment through environmental testing, medical monitoring, public noticing, replacement water (for period between testing and installation of treatment), and safe disposal and destruction.”