The attorney who took on DuPont in the class action lawsuit over contaminated water supplies in the Mid-Ohio Valley is challenging the industry once again to examine the real-world science about chemical exposure. This time attorney Rob Bilott filed suit on behalf of everyone in the United States who has PFAS in their blood, which according to sampling results would be nearly everyone.
While the Leach lawsuit filed by Bilott in Wood County, West Virginia in the early 2000’s focused specifically on C8 or PFOA or perfluorooctanoic acid, the suit filed this fall pertains to the larger family of chemicals known as PFAS and targets three companies for their manufacture and application: DuPont, 3M, and Chemours.
An article by Sharon Lerner in the Intercept on October 6, 2018, reveals that the newly filed suit against the three companies seeks to use the ground-breaking framework developed in the Leach suit to arrive at a science-based conclusion. . The Leach suit resulted in the C8 Health Project, the C8 Science Panel, filtration systems for six local water systems, medical monitoring and finally a settlement of more than $670 million for thousands of Mid-Ohio Valley residents who filed personal injury claims against DuPont because they drank the contaminated water and developed one or more of six linked health conditions.
It happened like this. As a condition of the settlement agreement penned in 2004, the C8 Health Project recruited, sampled and collected medical data on nearly 70,000 exposed participants. Over the next few years the C8 Science Panel, a group of three epidemiologists, studied and reviewed that data along with other study results from all over the world. They came to the conclusion that there was a probable link between exposure to C8 and six health conditions: kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, pre-eclampsia, and medically diagnosed high cholesterol. This conclusion led to the construction and ongoing maintenance of filtration systems for the six impacted water systems (identified at the time). The class members have the right to medical monitoring to help track the development of the identified diseases. It also gave individuals in the impacted communities who drank the water and suffered from one of the related conditions the right to file personal injury claims against DuPont. In 2017, DuPont and its spin-off company Chemours agreed to settle more than 3,500 such personal injury claims for $670 million with an ongoing allowance to handle the future claims of the exposed population.
Bilott wants to replicate that massive health study model on a national level with regards to the entire family of PFAS chemicals.
C8 or PFOA was used at DuPont Washington Works in the manufacture of Teflon and hundred of other consumer applications. The larger PFAS family of manmade chemicals includes PFOA – the Teflon toxin, Gen-X – it’s replacement, PFOS – the Scotchgard chemical, and many other compounds known for their unnatural properties.They are present in food packaging, textiles, draperies, food coverings and countless other consumer products.
They are persistent in humans, animals, and in the environment. They do not break down over time. And, exposure is linked to cancer and other diseases.
Recently, concerns over this family of chemicals has prompted the Ohio State Fire Marshal to direct fire departments across the state to refrain from using firefighting foams containing PFAS. It is worth noting that Bilott filed the nationwide PFAS class action lawsuit on behalf of his client Kevin Hardwick – an Ohio firefighter.
In the fall of 2017, citing “unusually high rates of cancer” in firefighters, Bilott petitioned the US EPA and the CDC to study the turnout gear of firefighters as a potential route of exposure. At the time, the turnout gear industry accused Bilott of “creating fear and mistrust” in their products. The industry does admit that for an unspecified amount of time PFAS were used as a coating on turnout gear, but makes the claim that such small amounts could not result in any significant, harm-inducing exposure.
To date no study has been done on the potential link between cancer and firefighters’ exposure through their PFAS-treated gear.