PFAS are estimated to be detectable in the bloodstream of 98% of Californians
SAN FRANCISCO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS, for endangering public health, causing irreparable harm to the state’s natural resources, and engaging in a widespread campaign to mislead the public. . In the lawsuit, Attorney General Bonta alleges that these manufacturers, including 3M and DuPont, knew or should have known that PFAS are toxic and harmful to human health and the environment, but continued to produce them for mass use and hid their harm from the public. public. . As a result, these toxic “forever chemicals” are ubiquitous in California’s bays, lakes, streams, and rivers; in its fish, wildlife, and soil; and in the bloodstream of 98% of Californians.
“PFAS are as ubiquitous in California as they are harmful,” said Attorney General Bonta. “As a result of a decades-long campaign of deception, PFAS are in our waters, our clothes, our homes and even our bodies. The damage caused by 3M, DuPont, and other manufacturers of PFAS is staggering, and without drastic action, California will be dealing with the damage of these toxic chemicals for generations. Today’s lawsuit is the result of a years-long investigation that found that PFAS manufacturers knowingly violated state environmental and consumer protection laws. We will not let them go free for the pernicious damage done to our state.”
PFAS are one class of thousands of toxic chemicals. This lawsuit concerns seven common PFASs that have been detected in drinking water supplies, surface water, and groundwater in California: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA); perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS); perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS); perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS); perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA); perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA); and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA).
PFAS are widely used in consumer products, including food packaging, cookware, clothing, carpets, shoes, fabrics, polishes, waxes, paints, and cleaning products, as well as in firefighting foams designed to quickly smother fuel fires. liquids. These so-called “forever chemicals” are stable in the environment, resistant to degradation, persistent in soil, and are known to leach into groundwater. PFOS, a PFAS chemical manufactured exclusively by 3M beginning in the 1940s, was a component of firefighting foams used by the military, airports, refineries and fire departments for decades before it was phased out in the early 2000s.
PFAS have been found in the blood of most Californians. Human exposure to PFAS can occur through air, water, soil, or contaminated food and consumer products. People who work or live on or near military bases, airports, industrial facilities, and local fire departments where foam has been used to fight fires are particularly likely to have been exposed to dangerous levels of PFAS contaminants. PFAS can cause adverse health impacts, including developmental defects, cancers of the liver, kidney, testicle, breast, pancreas, and prostate, adverse pregnancy outcomes, infertility, reduced bone density in children, and impacts on the thyroid and the immune system. Exposure to PFOA and PFOS was also found to limit the effectiveness of common vaccines in multiple studies.
For decades, PFAS manufacturers were aware of the toxicity, persistence, and prevalence of these chemicals in humans, but chose to deliberately mislead the government and the public. As early as the 1950s, 3M and DuPont began testing the physiological and toxicological properties of PFAS. Based on these internal studies, the manufacturers knew that PFAS were toxic to humans and the environment. In the 1960s, manufacturers confirmed that PFASs were leaching into groundwater and contaminating the environment, and in the 1970s, they confirmed that PFASs bioaccumulate in humans.
However, even after 3M stopped manufacturing PFOS in response to pressure from the US Environmental Protection Agency, it worked to control and distort the science on PFAS and downplay its dangers to the environment and human health. . As recently as November 2018, 3M publicly stated that “the vast body of scientific evidence does not show that PFOS or PFOA cause adverse health effects in humans at current exposure levels, or even at levels historically higher than are found in the blood. Similarly, despite half a century of insider knowledge of the health and environmental risks of PFOA, DuPont publicly stated in 2003 that “[w]We are confident that there are no health effects associated with [PFOA] exposure”, and that “[PFOA] It is not a human health problem.”
Today, PFAS are ubiquitous in California. Data from the State Water Resources Control Board shows that PFAS are found in drinking water, groundwater, and surface water, with especially high levels near airports, refineries, plating facilities, military installations, and landfills. PFAS have been detected in at least 146 public water systems serving 16 million Californians. These chemicals are also present in the aquifers that provide water to millions of Californians through unregulated domestic wells.
In the lawsuit, Attorney General Bonta alleges that manufacturers knew or should have known about the dangers of PFAS when they made and/or sold products containing them and that the manufacturers failed to warn about the dangers of PFAS and in many cases they hid. . The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, damages, penalties, restitution, and abatement. The requested relief includes the treatment and destruction of PFAS statewide, including, but not limited to, the treatment of drinking water by regulated water systems; water drawn from private wells and unregulated systems used for drinking water and irrigation; and water from other plants and wastewater treatment systems. The lawsuit also seeks payment of funds necessary to mitigate impacts to human health and the environment through environmental testing, medical monitoring, public notification, water replacement (for the period between testing and installation of treatment). and secure disposal and destruction.
A copy of the complaint is available. here.
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