PFAS manufacturers hid the risks

Michael Bartlett

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on July 31st, 2023

PFAS manufacturers hid the risks

Since the 1950s, PFAS have been used in an extensive range of consumer products and industrial applications thanks to their unique physical properties. However, despite being aware of their adverse health effects as early as 1961, major PFAS manufacturers kept vital information regarding the chemicals' toxicity hidden for decades.

The anti-adherent, fire-resistant, and water- and oil-repellent qualities of PFAS compounds were the main attributes that led to their prevalent use during the second part of the 20th century. The main PFAS subtypes that companies such as 3M and DuPont manufactured were:

  • Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)
  • Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS)

Also referred to as "C8" due to the 8 carbon atoms forming the compounds' molecular backbone, PFOA and PFOS were regarded as inert compounds with no adverse exposure risks. In 2023, a study published in the Annals of Global Health highlighted internal studies and documents indicating that manufacturers were long aware of their toxic potential yet kept the information hidden from their employees and regulatory institutions for years.

The study's authors analyzed publicly available documents submitted in two cases from 1998 and 2002, comprising internal studies, memos, and communications regarding PFAS' health risks. According to the available information, 3M and DuPont knew about PFOA and PFOS' effects on animal models and human employees since 1961, including:

  • Liver increases in rats at low doses (1961)
  • Reports of high and moderate C8 toxicity when inhaled and ingested (1970)
  • 3M and DuPont sharing findings of fluorine in workers' blood (1978)
  • Elevated liver enzymes in DuPont employees (1978 and 1981)
  • PFAS in the blood of pregnant workers and their offsprings (1980)
  • Testicular tumors in rats due to C8 exposure (1988)
  • "Possible" links to prostate cancer (1994)
  • Elevated mortality ratios for kidney and bladder cancer (2003)

During this time, both companies disingenuously attempted to downplay PFAS health hazards, even likening its toxicity to that of salt. Perhaps even more concerning is the industry's involvement in suppressing information, achieved by employing ethically questionable strategies such as:

  • Influencing the direction of scientific research
  • Funding and publishing favorable research
  • Suppressing unfavorable industry research
  • Distorting public discourse
  • Changing or setting scientific standards

Although these tactics would prove detrimental for PFAS manufacturers in the long run, the collateral consequences are far more extensive. The decade-long suppression of vital information on PFAS' toxicity meant that countless individuals suffered exposure unaware of the underlying health risks, scientific research couldn't advance appropriately, and crucial regulatory actions were stunted.

In July 2023, DuPont and 3M agreed to settle claims filed by public water utilities in the PFAS contamination class-action lawsuit initiated by the National Rural Water Association (NRWA) before litigation could advance to the scheduled bellwether trial. While DuPont will share the $1.185 billion settlement payouts with Chemours and Corteva, 3M's historic $12.5 billion settlement will be paid out over a period of 13 years.

Our diligent lawyers can help you join the PFAS water contamination lawsuit

For over thirty years, Environmental Litigation Group's experienced legal specialists have helped toxic exposure victims in their pursuit of justice and the compensation their suffering entitles them to. We aim to help eligible public water utilities participate in the PFAS water contamination class-action lawsuit to cover the high costs of PFAS cleanup and remediation.

To qualify, public water utilities must have proof of PFAS contamination. We can help determine your eligibility, and we encourage you to reach out to us for a free case evaluation.