What is PFAS and Why Should We Be Concerned?

June 11, 2021

In the 1930’s chemists at DuPont accidentally discovered a combination of carbon molecules which ultimately led to the creation of Teflon and Scotchgard.  These manmade polymers have since been used in literally millions of products sold throughout the world, due to their ability to repel water and oil and resist heat. These substances have been known as “C8” (a reference to the chain of eight carbon atoms which forms their molecular structure) and are also known as the “forever chemicals” due to the fact that they do not degrade over time.

Technically speaking, these chemicals are known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl  and are generally described as “PFAS”, “PFOS”, and/or “PFOA”, amongst other acronyms which are used to describe what is now understood to be nearly ten-thousand  variations of the C8 structure.

Despite their near miraculous ability to repel oils and waters and resist heat, DuPont/3M soon learned that these forever chemicals cause a number of medical conditions, which they learned through testing of their own workers. Animal studies demonstrated that exposure to these chemicals cause a number of the same medical conditions, including testicular and kidney cancer. Despite knowing this, DuPont and 3M for decades continued to use the forever chemicals in their products and continued to provide PFAS textiles to other manufacturers who use these materials in their products.

Many of these facts became known to the public as a result of a lawsuit which arose out of groundwater and drinking contamination cause by a DuPont PFAS production plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia. THs litigation, which took ore than twenty-years to resolve, became the subject of the best-selling book Exposure, written by Rob Bilott, the attorney who represented the residents of Parkersburg who were affected by DuPont’s PFAS exposure through their contaminated water supply, and the movie 2019 Dark Waters which starred Mark Ruffalo, as Attorney Bilott.

After three case arising from this lawsuit were tried to three verdicts, each of which resulted in multiple million dollar awards against DuPont, DuPont ultimately agreed to pay $70 million and also agreed to pay for medical monitoring for the residents it had poisoned. Hundreds of additional lawsuits have been filed across the country, a number of which are consolidated in a multi-district litigation pending in the federal court in South Carolina. It is also noteworthy that during the course of the Parkersburg, WV litigation, DuPont agreed to be bound by the findings of a panel of three of the nation’s leading epidemiologists concerning whether or not PFAS, more likely than not, was causing the conditions from which the affected residents were suffering. That panel became known as the “C8 Science Panel” and, after several years of research, including an epidemiological study based on testing of a large majority of the affected residents, the Panel ultimately concluded that exposure to PFAS, more likely than not, causes six medical conditions including diagnosed high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, and pregnancy-induced hypertension. These findings have been published ad can easily be found at the Science Panel Website.

Determining the origins or causes of PFAS exposure can be challenging to navigate. If you or a loved one have developed a medical condition, including cancers of the internal organs, which you believe may have been caused by exposures to PFAS you should consider consulting with an attorney who is knowledgeable on this subject to determine whether you may have a meritorious claim.


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