(SHERMAN LAW NEWS | January 23, 2022)
Studies of of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) compounds are on the rise. These chemicals stay in the environment forever. They do not break down. They are toxic to humans and cause liver, testicular, and kidney cancer and other serious health illnesses.
What are PFAs?
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, are being found everywhere in the environment because of their widespread use in a variety of industrial and consumer products and processes. PFAs are a class of non-stick, waterproof, stain-resistant compounds used in consumer products and industry. Best known members of the PFAs class are PFOs, formerly used to make DuPont's Teflon, and PFOA (also known as C-8), formerly in 3M's Scotchgard.
Examples of products manufactured using PFOs or PFOAs:
- firefighting foams
- protective sprays
- cleaning products
- coatings for carpets and upholstery
- waterproof clothing
- grease-proof food packaging
- heat resistant tape
- non-stick pans
Military Base Exposure to PFAs
Exposure to PFAs at military bases and surrounding neighborhoods was largely caused by toxic fire foams used for training and fire extinguishment. Testing data gathered in the last few years shows the toxins in soil and water sources near military bases ranging in low to high levels. The fire foams were stored in large tanks on site and when needed, sprayed from chemical storage trucks to put out fires. Runoff was not contained contaminating the nearby soil and local groundwater. Because these chemicals are persistent and do not break down, they don't go away even if used decades ago.
PFAs can be found in human blood. Almost everyone has PFAs in their blood, depending on time and extent of the exposure. There are now blood testing kits available for home use to test serum levels.
PFAs Cause Liver, Testicular, and Kidney Cancer
Interest in PFAs is rising because of the tendency of these compounds to cause cancer and other illnesses. Medical research published in the Environmental and Toxicology Journal, October 2020, shows a relationship between PFA exposure and liver and kidney cancer. A 3M and DuPont toxicity study in 1990 found testicular cancer. Due to the growing interest, further studies will likely add many more cancers to the list.
The impact of cancer on humans and the risk of who will get cancer depends highly on a multitude of factors including the circumstances of exposure (magnitude, duration, and route of exposures) and factors associated with the individuals exposed (e.g., age, sex, ethnicity, health status, and genetic predisposition).
Just as with smoking tobacco, a known human carcinogen, not every heavy smoker will get lung cancer. Who gets lung cancer depends on the same exposure and individual factors that determine who will get a PFAs-related cancer.
Anyone living in and around PFAs are at risk. People living in and near military bases where testing data shows PFAs are at risk. This includes pregnant women. PFAs can move across the placenta and enter the breast milk of pregnant mothers. Cancer is a latent disease that can take many years to develop and manifest. If you lived near or on a contaminated military base in the 1970s, 80s, or 90s, and have liver, testicular, or kidney cancer, there is a likelihood it is related to PFAs.
History of PFAs in the United States
PFAs are man-made. Starting in the 1940s, 3M sold PFAs and products with PFAs and shipped PFOA and PFOS to manufacturers across the United States, including DuPont who used the chemicals in their fire-resistant products and coatings including Teflon. For most of the past several decades, 3M has been the primary manufacturer of PFOA and PFOS. 3M began producing those substances in the 1940s and phased out production in the early 2000s, allegedly due to pressure from the federal Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA").
The makers knew about the dangers but kept producing and selling.
- 1956, 3M and DuPont learned that 3M's PFAS compounds bioaccumulate in the human body.
- In the 1970s, 3M knew that its compounds were hazardous to the general population.
- 1975, 3M found there was a universal presence of PFOA in blood serum samples taken from across the United States.
- In the late 1970s, 3M resisted internal calls to study the environmental impact of its compounds.
- 1980, Old DuPont confirmed that PFOA is toxic, that it accumulates in human tissue, and that "continued exposure is not tolerable."
- 2008, blood tests reveal that 9-11 first responders have twice as much PFAS in their blood as the general population due to the inhalation of contaminants during the World Trade Center collapse.
- 2015, the Department of Defense begins to replace chemical containing foams and gear with safer alternatives.
- 2016 litigation commences.
Like many cases against chemical giants, the case centers on the makers active efforts to suppress scientific research on the hazards associated those products, and mounting a campaign of doubt to control the scientific dialogue on the exposure, analytical, fate, effects, human health, and ecological risks of its PFOA and PFOS products.
Federal law requires chemical manufacturers and distributors to immediately notify the EPA if they have information that “reasonably supports the conclusion that such substance or mixture presents a substantial risk of injury to health or the environment.” Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”) § 8(e), 15 U.S.C. § 2607(e). This was not done.
The Senate's Filthy Fifty PFAs Sites
The U.S. Senate introduced important legislation in 2021 to clean up PFAs contaminated sites. The 50 sites on their list are:
England Air Force Base, Louisiana.
Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California.
Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.
Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, South Carolina.
Langley Air Force Base, Virginia.
Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida.
Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, New York.
Grand Prairie Armed Forces Reserve Complex, Texas.
Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma.
Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina.
Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.
Plattsburgh Air Force Base, New York.
Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.
Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.
Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi.
Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois.
Marine Corps Air Station Tustin, California.
Travis Air Force Base, California.
Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.
Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.
Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts.
Eaker Air Force Base, Arkansas.
Naval Air Station Alameda, California.
Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.
Horsham Air Guard Station, Pennsylvania.
Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma.
Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.
Edwards Air Force Base, California.
Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
Galena Air Force Base, Alaska.
Naval Research Lab Chesapeake Bay Detachment, Maryland.
Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado.
Arnold Air Force Base, Tennessee.
Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.
Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington.
Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, New York.
F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming.
Nevada Air National Guard Base - Reno, Nevada.
K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base, Michigan.
Pease Air Force Base, New Hampshire.
Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.
Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Michigan.
Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base, West Virginia.
Naval Air Station Whidbey Island - Ault Field, Washington.
Rosecrans Air National Guard Base, Missouri.
Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
Iowa Air National Guard Base - Des Moines, Iowa.
Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York.
For PFAs testing levels at various military bases, the Environmental Working Group provides an interactive map, here.
Sherman Law represents individuals exposed to PFAs. There is no attorney fee, unless there is a recovery. Take ACTION now before its too late. Statute of limitations apply.