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The Biden administration is considering adding two chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, to its official list of hazardous substances under the federal Superfund program, which cleans up toxic waste sites. In doing so, the administration will compel polluters to pay for the restoration of contaminated sites. It will also direct taxpayer money into the projects if the culprits cannot be found. In addition, companies will be required to report when the chemicals leach into the environment, even if in small amounts.
Environmental groups and lawmakers praised the proposal as a step toward solving a sprawling national issue and making the public more aware of the toxic chemical presence.
What are the Dangers of PFAS Exposure?
PFAS is a class of about 12,000 chemicals, including PFOA and PFOS, typically used to make thousands of products that resist water, heat and stain. For decades, manufacturers praised PFAS for its durability, but the resilience has presented some dangers. These chemicals are used to make a variety of household products, from nonstick cookware to food packaging. However, the fluorinated substances break down very slowly, allowing them to build up in water, soil, and people’s bodies. By the time contamination is found, it’s too late to prevent damage. Unfortunately, the chemicals are difficult to remove and destroy. Because the chemicals are so difficult to get rid of, scientists have named them “forever chemicals.”
PFAS have been found in dangerous concentrations in drinking water, food, and soils across the country. Due to the substances’ inability to break down quickly, they can build up in the body, where they have been linked to illnesses like heart problems, birth defects, kidney disease, liver problems, and cancer.
Some of the most dangerous sites with the most PFAS exposure include areas outside military bases where airmen used aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) flame retardants to extinguish jet-fuel fires. Under the EPA’s proposal, the military will need to take into account state laws when cleaning up PFOA and PFOS waste.
How Can Someone Be Exposed to PFAS?
In addition to a large presence near military areas, there are other professions that rely on fire-fighting foam. The foam is commonly kept in places such as:
- Municipal services
- Mining facilities
Unfortunately, exposure to dangerous compounds doesn’t end with any specific profession. PFAS contamination has been found in more than 700 communities in 49 states, but that’s more likely the tip of the iceberg of PFAS exposure to the common population. Unreleased federal data indicates that up to 110 million Americans may have PFAS in their drinking water, and PFAS has also contaminated much of the food supply.
Other ways that PFAS can be found and affect the general population include:
- Living organisms, including fish, animals, and humans, where PFAS can build up and persist over time.
- Workplace, including production facilities or industries.
Manufacturers Were Aware of the Dangers of PFAS
For nearly 70 years, chemical companies such as DuPont and 3M were aware that PFAS build up in our blood and that the chemicals have a toxic effect on our organs. However, the companies didn’t alert federal or state regulators until 1998, and many companies continue to make and release PFAS chemicals into the environment today.
A confidential 3M interoffice memo dated May 10, 1978 described a meeting in which the company discussed the results of studies in which laboratory rats were exposed to three different PFAS compounds, with the results indicating that the compounds were toxic. The company decided not to report the finding to the EPA.
Later that year, two studies on monkeys might have been seen as more alarming and worth sharing with the general public. One study actually had to be stopped because all the monkeys given PFOS died after incorrect (too high) feeding levels were used. In the second study, the monkeys that were given PFOA developed tiny lesions on their spleen, bone marrow, and lymph nodes- the organs central in maintaining the body’s immune defenses.
The company waited 22 years before giving the troubling studies to the EPA or reporting the evidence that the chemical was in the blood of the general public.
We Care and We Can Help
The Carlson Law Firm is investigating claims nationwide in regards to the adverse health effects from PFOA and PFOS contaminated water near military installations. We believe it’s important to hold manufacturers accountable for putting profits over the well-being of individuals within our communities, especially when they were aware of the health dangers these compounds created. Our PFAS exposure attorneys are ready to help. We care and we can help.