Lawmakers Prod EPA For Action on PFAs
September 12, 2018 | Environmental Litigation
During a lengthy hearing, members of the House Energy and Commerce Environment Subcommittee urged the Trump Administration to take firmer action against the “forever chemicals” which pollute drinking water supplies across the country.
Once people are exposed to them, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluouroalkyl chemicals remain in the human body almost indefinitely. PFAs are probable carcinogens, and very dangerous ones at that. The Environmental Protection Agency maintains that 70 parts per trillion is a safe exposure level. But, the best evidence suggests that the actual safe level may be as much as ten times lower than that. Regardless, EPA Drinking Water and Groundwater Director Peter Grevatt insisted that his agency was taking action. He promised lawmakers that bureaucrats would release a “national management plan” by the end of the year. This plan may or may not classify PFAs as hazardous substances, a designation which would make additional cleanup funds available.
Plans for future action were not enough for some lawmakers. “It’s time to figure out what can be done right now and what needs to be done to respond appropriately to legitimate risks created by PFAs contamination in the environment,” remarked Environment Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL).
What is PFOA?
Beginning in the 1940s, manufacturers used perfluorooctanoic acid in a wide range of products. It is an extremely stable and long-lasting chemical, making it ideal for industrial and commercial use. SInce PFOA created a barrier between two substances, some of these products include:
- Firefighting foam,
- Stain-resistant carpet, and
- Waterproof apparel.
PFOA pioneer 3M phased out PFAs beginning in 2000. DuPont Chemical, which began using PFAs shortly after 3M, built its own PFA factory shortly thereafter and continued using the substance.
As the evidence of harmful health effects mounted, attorneys for victims near the Fayetteville, North Carolina facility were finally able to shut it down.
PFA Health Effects
As early as 1993, DuPont knew that “PFOA caused cancerous testicular, pancreatic and liver tumors.” Yet because the inexpensive chemical contributed mightily to DuPont’s $1 billion profit per year, company executives ignored warnings from their own chemists and continued using PFOA. This substance seriously disrupts body chemistry. In addition to various kinds of cancer, PFOA has also been linked to:
- Ulcerative colitis,
- Thyroid disease,
- Hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol), and
- PIH (Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension).
Young children and senior citizens are especially vulnerable to drinking water contaminations. Since PFOA remains in the body indefinitely, the health effects could last a lifetime. They seemingly come and go indiscriminately.
The industrial foam that emergency responders use to combat jet fuel fires has high PFOA levels. As a result, people who live near Air Force bases, airports, or similar installations are at risk for PFOA water poisoning. THere is no safe way to store or dispose of this chemical. So, some level of contamination is practically inevitable. This substance leaks into the groundwater and poisons people who drink well water.
Furthermore, people who lived near any of the aforementioned production facilities should also be wary of possible water poisoning. PFA-related illnesses may be dormant for decades before symptoms appear.
Your Claim for Damages
Because of the life-threatening illnesses that PFA causes, victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. Obtaining that compensation usually involves one of the following two legal theories.
Negligence is a lack of ordinary care. Since the link between PFOA and serious illness is so strong, its use clearly constitutes a lack of care. Generally, in premises liability negligence cases, victim/plaintiffs must only establish that the defendant knew about the risk. So, the defendant does not necessarily need to be the company which allowed the PFOA to leak. It’s usually sufficient to show the defendant knew about the danger and did little or nothing to prevent it.
Public nuisance is also an option in environmental tort cases. Usually, victim/plaintiffs do not need to establish fault or knowledge in these claims. Instead, they need only show that a substance harmed a large number of people over a long period of time.
The compensation mentioned above usually includes money for both economic damages, such as medical treatment bills, and noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. Additionally, juries often award substantial punitive damages in environmental tort cases. These damages are available if there is clear and convincing evidence of reckless disregard for human safety.
PFA water poisoning may cause life-threatening illnesses. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. We handle PFOA contamination cases on a nationwide basis.
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