PFAS Environmental Lawsuit Over Health Problems From Toxic Waste Disposal Allowed to Proceed

Plaintiffs claim PFAS chemicals dumped by manufacturers in New Jersey led to contaminated water supplies and health problems.

A federal judge in New Jersey has cleared the way for an environmental lawsuit over PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) contamination to proceed against several chemical manufacturers, after rejecting an attempt to have the case dismissed.

The lawsuit was brought against 3M Company, Solvay Specialty Polymers and other PFAS manufacturers, alleging that plaintiffs suffered injuries due to the company’s dumping of chemicals, particularly perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which made their way into the drinking water supplies in the West Deptford, Pennsville and Carney Points, New Jersey areas.

PFAS were first introduced into the manufacturing industry in the 1940’s, because of their ability to resist heat, grease, stains, and water. While the chemical are found in a wide variety of products, including some food packaging materials, pizza boxes, popcorn bags, fabrics, nonstick cooking pans, and other products, most of the concerns have focused on high volumes of the PFAS chemicals that entered drinking water supplies from aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs) widely used near airports, military bases and firefighting training centers.

PFAS drinking contamination has been linked to a myriad of long-term health risks, including liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression, and cancer.

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

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In response to the environmental PFAS lawsuits, the manufacturers filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that plaintiffs did not sufficiently allege causation, and that the claims do not indicate the Defendants produced all of the toxins emitted into the environment that may have harmed them. They also asked the court to dismiss claims of punitive damages.

In an opinion (PDF) issued on February 1, U.S. District Judge Noel Hillman rejected the motion and allowed the cases to move forward, though he did grant defendants request to have punitive damages claims in the lawsuits removed.

“The Court does not see the purported pleading deficiencies the same way that Defendants do,” Judge Hillman wrote. “Discovery may reveal more about exactly how the toxins did or did not contribute to Plaintiffs’ conditions, but at this stage, the pleading is sufficient.”

The same chemical manufacturers currently face a number of firefighting foam PFAS lawsuits brought by individuals diagnosed with with cancer after exposure to the chemicals in their drinking water, as well as firefighters directly exposed during training and response exercises.

In this PFAS environmental lawsuit, plaintiffs specifically allege the contamination was caused by toxic waste disposal activities at multiple different plants.

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