Major Settlements Won’t Fully Cover “Forever Chemicals” Removal

( –¬†Forever chemicals are what we call those chemicals or toxins that don’t break down in the environment or in our bodies. When we talk about them, we are usually referring to fluorinated chemicals called PFAS. They are found in our water, in many of our everyday objects, in foods, and in the blood of 97% of Americans. These PFAS have been linked with cancer even in small concentrations as well as with reproductive issues, immune system problems and other conditions or diseases.

In 2023 lawsuits against major chemical companies Dupont, 3M, Corteva, and Chemours for polluting U.S. drinking water with toxic PFAS chemicals led to more than $11 billion in settlements. Some are referring to PFAS as the new asbestos. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has referred to PFAS as an urgent public health problem as well as a major environmental issue. The head of Allen & Overy’s environmental law group, Kenneth Rivlin commented that current litigation is only the beginning of this story.

Attempts to filter the forever chemicals out of the water are difficult and expensive. A study from the American Water Works Association indicated that total nationwide costs for treatment could be up to $47 billion. The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies suggested the costs could be around $6 billion every year. Many local governments have decided to pass these costs onto the consumers with price hikes of 13% to 50%. These costs could go even higher with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposing a new rule which would require municipal sources to track and filter out the chemicals in addition to setting maximum allowable limits.

Many water sources have opted out of the current wave of lawsuits either because their own PFAS levels are already quite low, or they are planning individual lawsuits at a later date. While the EPA and many others are concerned about the environmental impact of the forever chemicals the companies maintained that the concentration levels being contested were not dangerous. A spokesperson for 3M spokesperson insisted that PFAS can be safely made and used but acknowledged that the company was planning to discontinue production of them by 2025.

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