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Toxic Chemicals In Firefighter Foam Caused Birth Defects, Paralysis, New Jersey Woman Claims

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A New Jersey woman indicates that in utero and early life exposure to toxic chemicals used in firefighter foams, as well as exposure to other “forever chemical” compounds, led to her being born with birth defects, paralysis and other chronic health problems.

Shirley Bond was born and raised in a home in Pedricktown, New Jersey in 1962, near the West Deptford manufacturing facility, which has been owned by Solvay Specialty Polymers and Arkema, Inc. through the years. Her birthplace was also near the Chambers Works facility in Pennsville and Carneys Point Townships.

According to a complaint (PDF) filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on May 13, spills and releases from these plants damaged Bond in her mother’s womb, and likely throughout her childhood, resulting in lifelong, crippling injuries and developmental problems.

The lawsuit names Solvay, Arkema, Du Pont De Nemours & Company, the Chemours Company and 3M Company as defendants, alleging the facility released a number of chemicals used in firefighter foam and other products into the air, soil and water. These chemicals, known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are known to be toxic, and are often referred to as “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in both the environment and human body.

Following exposure to these toxic chemicals, and other releases from the plant like halogenated hydrocarbons, and heavy metals like lead, mercury, arsenic, copper and freons, Bond’s lawsuit indicates she was born with congenital heart defects, a brachial plexus injury and associated paralysis, scoliosis, cervical myofascial pain syndrome and osteoporosis. The lawsuit indicates her heart problems have led to blockages, heart murmurs, and other heart injuries, as well as the need for heart surgery, ablations and the use of a pacemaker. She also suffers from lifelong depression and anxiety due to her injuries and birth defects, the lawsuit states.

The West Deptford facility at issue is currently owned by Solvay, and has been since 1990. Before that, it was owned by Arkema. The Chambers Works facility was owned by DuPont from 1891 to 2015.

PFAS were first introduced into the manufacturing industry in the 1940’s, because of their ability to resist heat, grease, stains, and water. However, since then the chemicals have been linked to a myriad of adverse health effects including liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression, and cancer. It is perhaps most known for its use in aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs) used by military and civilian firefighters.

In recent years, concerns have emerged about widespread water contamination from PFAS chemicals, particularly among communities near chemical plants, as well as airports, military bases and other locations where firefighter training has been conducted that dumped the chemicals into the soil and groundwater.

“For decades, Defendants knew or should have known of the severe and adverse health and environmental effects and impacts of PFAS and other toxins,” Bond’s lawsuit states. “Despite that knowledge, Defendants continued to use PFAS and other toxins in products and release them into the environment.”

The lawsuit notes many of the compounds were being manufactured for 3M products or using chemical compounds contained in the company’s firefighting foals, alleging that 3M “actively sought to suppress scientific research” on the health risks of PFAS.

It is projected to take thousands of years for PFAS chemicals to degrade, and past studies have shown their ability to enter and stay in the environment and human body through the air, dust, food, soil, and water. Previous U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies have shown PFAS chemicals primarily settle into the blood, kidney and liver, and could likely be detected in the blood of 98% of the U.S. population.

The complaint comes as 3M and other chemical manufacturers face a growing number of firefighting foam lawsuits brought by individuals and communities nationwide, including plaintiffs diagnosed with cancer after exposure to the chemicals in their drinking water, as well as firefighters directly exposed during training and response exercises.

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