PFAS Water Contamination Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Kleenex Factory Manufacturer

Kleenex factor in Connecticut contaminated drinking water for area residents, according to lawsuit seeking compensation for lost property values and future medical monitoring due to PFAS exposure risks.

A group of Connecticut citizens have filed a class action lawsuit against the makers of Kleenex, claiming a factory in that state caused toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to contaminated their water supply, increasing the risk of cancer and other health problems.

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Bethany DePaul, Arlene Quaranta and Meredith Quaranta late last month in Connecticut federal court, seeking damages from Kimberly-Clark Corporation, the manufacturer of Kleenex products, as the defendant.

PFAS include a group of over 15,000 man-made substances 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 testicular cancer, kidney 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), which contains large volumes of the chemicals and has been widely used by the military and firefighters for decades 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.

3M Company, DuPont, Chemguard, Inc., Tyco Fire Products and other manufacturers of chemicals and fire safety products now face thousands of PFAS water contamination lawsuits brought by local water providers and individuals diagnosed with various types of cancer. The companies also face hundreds of firefighter cancer lawsuits over exposure to AFFF, and the litigation has further increased concerns about the long-term risks associated with PFAS exposure.

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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 this latest lawsuit, plaintiffs seek class action status to pursue damages from the manufacturer of Kleenex, indicating that a plant released PFAS chemicals into the water supply around New Milford, Connecticut.

All of the named plaintiffs indicate that they drank PFAS-contaminated water, resulting in subclinical cellular changes that have significantly increased their risk of cancer later in life. Soil samples have detected high levels of PFAS in the soil on plaintiffs’ properties, and the lawsuit indicates the Kleenex factory is the only known source in the area that could have contributed to the contamination.

The New Milford Kleenex factory has been in operation since the 1950s, manufacturing diapers early on in its history and now producing more than 1 million packages of Kleenex tissue packages per day, according to the complaint.

“Kimberly-Clark’s manufacturing practices caused stack emissions containing PFAS Chemicals to go airborne, travel, and ultimately deposit PFAS Chemicals on the real property and in the drinking water wells of Plaintiffs Bethany DePaul and Arlene Quaranta and the members of the Class,” the lawsuit states. “The PFAS Chemicals deposited by Kimberly-Clark’s stack emissions contaminated the soil and drinking water wells located on Plaintiffs’ and members of the Class’s properties.”

The lawsuit indicates Kimberly-Clark knew, or should have known, about the risk of PFAS water contamination, and has already announced plans to phase out the use of PFAS chemicals. It seeks restitution for others affected by the contamination for the health risks and property damage, calling for the company to pay for the loss of property value as well as future medical monitoring costs for class members.

March 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 exposed to the chemicals through drinking water, or firefighters directly exposed through AFFF foam. The claims involve individuals diagnosed with kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis and other injuries.

Last year, Judge Gergel directed the lawyers involved in the litigation to select a group of 28 representative personal injury claims for an AFFF 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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