Lawsuit Alleges Pennsylvania PFAS Water Contamination Caused Kidney Cancer Diagnosis

Philadelphia woman indicates she had to have her kidney surgically removed due to the cancer caused by PFAS water contamination in the state

According to allegations raised in a lawsuit recently filed against various manufacturers of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), as well as fire safety equipment that contained the toxic “forever chemicals”, a 73 year old woman developed kidney cancer following years of exposure to contaminated water throughout the state of Pennsylvania.

The complaint (PDF) was brought by Regina Brown on March 27, indicating that she has been a life-long resident of Philadelphia and regularly consumed water from public or private water suppliers in Pennsylvania, which are now known to contaminated with PFAS chemicals, like many other areas throughout the U.S.

PFAS Water Contamination Problems Are Widespread

PFAS include a group of over 15,000 man-made chemicals that have been used for decades, to resist grease, oil and water. However, they are known to persist in the environment and build up in the human body, and there is growing evidence linking exposure to a myriad of adverse health effects, including kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis and other side effects.

Most of the PFAS water contamination problems in the U.S. have been linked to aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) used by military and civilian firefighters, which contains large volumes of the chemicals to fight fuel-based fires. During firefighter training and response exercises, these PFAS chemicals have been dumped into the environment and local water supplies, particularly around military bases, airports and firefighter training locations. However, the water contamination from PFAS has been found to be widespread, also often appearing in areas far removed from chemical manufacturing plants and firefighter training.

As a result of the failure to disclose the toxic side effects of PFAS, as well as the propensity for the chemicals to build up and persist in the human body, thousands of similar PFAS water contamination lawsuits are now being pursued against 3M Company, DuPont, Chemguard, Inc., Tyco Fire Products and other manufacturers of chemicals and fire safety products. The companies also face hundreds of AFFF cancer lawsuits brought by firefighters, who were directly exposed to the chemicals during their careers.

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Firefighting Foam Lawsuits

Exposure to firefighting foam chemicals may result in an increased risk of cancer for firefighters, military and airport personnel.

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Brown indicates that she has purchased and consumed water in Pennsylvania for her entire life, not knowing that it was contaminated with PFAS due to the defendants’ activities in the state. As a result, she was diagnosed with kidney cancer in May 2023, and had to undergo nephrectomy surgery, which involves the removal of a kidney. However, she still suffers from severe injuries and has to live with the fear that her cancer may someday return.

The Pennsylvania PFAS water contamination lawsuit claims the manufacturers knew for years, or even decades, that their “forever chemicals” were contaminating water supplies nationwide, but concealed that information from federal regulators and consumers, like Brown.

“Prior to Plaintiff’s kidney cancer diagnosis, Plaintiff had no knowledge of fluorochemical product contamination in the aforementioned water providers’ water supplies,” her lawsuit states. “At no point prior to her diagnosis while she relied on the aforementioned water providers for potable water did Plaintiff receive any formal notice that Defendants’ fluorochemical products had contaminated their water supplies.”

April 2024 PFAS Exposure Lawsuit Update

Given common questions of fact and law presented in thousands of lawsuits against PFAS manufacturers over the cancer risks associated with the chemicals, coordinated pretrial proceedings have been established in the federal court system before U.S. District Judge Richard M. Gergel in the District of South Carolina, where the claims are currently centralized for discovery and a series of early bellwether trials.

Although the manufacturers have reached proposed settlement over damages sustained by local water suppliers, who have been left with the costs associated with cleaning up the toxic chemicals, there have been no settlements in PFAS injury lawsuits brought by individuals like Brown exposed to the chemicals through drinking water, or firefighters directly exposed through AFFF foam.

Those claims involve individuals diagnosed with kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis and other injuries, following direct exposure to AFFF foam as firefighters, as well as PFAS water contamination caused by the toxic chemicals in the foam.

Last year, Judge Gergel directed the lawyers involved in the litigation to select a group of 28 representative personal injury claims for an PFAS water contamination injury bellwether pool, involving plaintiffs who say they were exposed to chemicals that contaminated drinking water. However, the first cases are unlikely to go before a jury for several years.

While the outcome of these claims will not have any binding impact on the other individual PFAS exposure lawsuits, although they will be closely watched and may influence how much manufacturers may pay to settle lawsuits brought by other plaintiffs.

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