PFAS Contamination Map Highlights More than 3,000 Sites Nationwide with Toxic Chemicals in Water Systems
A non-profit environmental advocacy group has released an interactive water contamination map that shows more than 3,000 sites throughout 50 different states, Washington, D.C. and two U.S. territories, which have public or private water system tainted with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) known to as “forever chemicals,” since they are known to build up in the environment and human body, causing a number of serious health risks for Americans.
The PFAS contamination map was published by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) on August 18, in a warning that highlights the widespread problems with PFAS water contamination in communities throughout the U.S.
PFAS include a group of over 9,000 man-made substances that have been widely used for decades, to resist grease, oil and water. They are found in a wide range of products, including firefighting foam, non-stick pans and food containers, but studies have linked PFAS exposure to a myriad of potential side effects, including liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression, and cancer.
Most of the U.S. water PFAS contamination has come from use of the chemicals in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) products used to fight fuel-based fires, especially around military bases, airports and other firefighter training locations, where large volumes of the chemicals were routinely dumped into the environment for decades.
3M Company and other manufacturers of PFAS chemicals now face thousands of AFFF foam lawsuits and PFAS water contamination lawsuits, alleging that manufacturers knew about the health risks associated with the chemicals since at least the mid-1970s, yet have continued to hide the truth from the public and allow water supplies nationwide to become tainted.
PFAS Contamination Map
The EWG’s PFAS contamination map was generated using data from public drinking water systems, as well as data from the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, the Safe Drinking Water Information System and the Department of Defense. The interactive map highlights various levels of PFAS contamination at 3,186 sites, but is just a snapshot of that data as of August 2023.
EWG criticized federal agencies for knowing about the PFAS contamination problem for years, but not taking sufficient action to protect the public.
“The Environmental Protection Agency has known about the health hazards of PFAS for decades but has failed to limit PFAS discharges into the air and water or set cleanup standards,” the EWG press release states. “The Department of Defense has been testing for PFAS at military installations but made little to no progress cleaning up any contaminated bases.”
In June, the EPA announced it was using a new framework to define new PFAS chemicals, but the agency has come under criticism for the vagueness of its definition, which some say could lead to the approval of new, dangerous PFAS chemicals which may expose the public to increased health risks.
August 2023 PFAS Lawsuit Update
Amid continuing debate over the future regulation of PFAS chemicals, the first lawsuits brought against manufacturers are being prepared to go before juries, involving claims that the chemicals have already caused widespread damage and injuries.
Earlier this summer, a lawsuit brought by a Florida water provider was scheduled to go before a jury to help gauge how juries were likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that would be repeated throughout PFAS lawsuits that seek to recover damages associated with removing the toxic chemicals from water supplies nationwide. However, in advance of the trial, a $12.5 billion PFAS settlement was reached to resolve claims brought by local water suppliers.
3M Company, DuPont, Tyco Fire Products, Buckeye Fire Equipment Company and other manufacturers of firefighting foam and protective equipment continue to face individual personal injury lawsuits over the side effects of PFAS exposure, which are currently centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, as part of a federal MDL or multidistrict litigation, since they each raise common questions of fact and law.
The U.S. District Judge presiding over the litigation has directed the parties to select a group of 28 representative personal injury claims for an PFAS exposure injury bellwether pool, involving plaintiffs who say they were exposed to chemicals that contaminated drinking water.
These cases will include eight kidney cancer claims, eight testicular cancer claims, eight thyroid disease claims and four ulcerative colitis claims. However, they will be limited to individuals alleging they were exposed to contaminated water near Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs Municipal Airport, the Willow Grove Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base and the Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminister.
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