Fed up with PFOA-laced drinking water that may be causing cancer and low birth weights, some of the residents in and around Colorado Springs’ Peterson Air Force Base have turned to attorneys of Napoli Shkolnik for both justice and financial compensation.
Beginning in the 1970’s, air force firefighters used large amounts of PFOA-laced firefighting foam. The chemical leaked into the water over time, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency, PFOA levels in some areas of Peterson AFB are almost twenty times higher than levels that the agency considers safe. The issue is not limited to the Colorado Springs area. The EPA says that up to six million people all over the country may be drinking poisoned water. To its credit, the Air Force has stepped up to the plate, spending some $4 million to provide bottled water and drinking water filtration systems to Peterson families. But DuPont, the chemical firm believed to be responsible, issued only a terse denial. The company insisted that it “acted responsibly at all times” so it “will vigorously defend this lawsuit.”
As many as 200 other Air Force bases throughout the country may be in roughly the same boat as Peterson, because of the PFOA firefighting foam.
The Story Behind PFOA
Scientists at what became DuPont first synthesized perfluorooctanoic acid in 1947, and within a few years, the chemical was in a wide range of consumer and industrial products, such as stain-resistant carpet and firefighting foam. PFOA created a long-lasting barrier between two substances, like carpet fibers and grape juice or burning jet fuel and a person.
The miracle chemical had a dark side. As early as 1961, DuPont knew that PFOA was potentially harmful to humans. But because the chemical produced nearly $1 billion in annual profits for the chemical company, DuPont kept selling PFOA products, and the particles kept leaking into the groundwater.
In 2002, under pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency, 3M announced a PFOA phase-out. DuPont responded not by reducing its use of the chemical, but by building a plant in Fayetteville, North Carolina specifically to manufacture PFOA and take advantage of the fact that 3M was leaving the market.
Low birth weight and certain types of cancer are linked to high PFOA levels.
Many doctors have a hard time diagnosing environmental cancers. If the patient has no apparent risk factors, such as lifestyle or family history, many physicians dismiss cancer out of hand and may not even order diagnostic tests for fear that the insurance company will not pay for them. As a result, by the time these victims are properly diagnosed, their disease is very advanced and even more difficult to treat.
Almost 10 percent of the babies born in the United States are VLBW (Very Low Birth Weight) infants, because they weigh under 5 pounds 8 ounces. In their first few weeks of life, these infants are highly at risk for a number of serious conditions, including:
- Patent Ductus Arteriosus: This artery, which carries blood past the baby’s lungs, normally closes almost immediately after birth. But when it remains open, as it often does in underdeveloped VLBW infants, it can cause severe heart problems.
- Respiratory Distress Syndrome: Many VLBW babies do not have sufficient surfactant levels in their lungs to let them inflate properly, so medical professionals put these individuals on ventilators. Long-term ventilator use causes permanent scar tissue to develop in the baby’s lungs.
- Necrotizing Enterocolitis: NEC is an intestinal problem that disrupts feeding after the baby is about two or three weeks old. These babies are so small and vulnerable that any lack of nutrition often has serious consequences.
Later in life, VLBW infants have an elevated risk of diabetes, heart problems, obesity, and other serious medical conditions.
At Napoli Shkolnik, we take on large chemical companies, like DuPont, who put their profits above the safety of the people in the communities that buy its products. Victims may be entitled to:
- Economic damages, such as medical bills,
- Noneconomic damages, like pain and suffering, and
- Punitive damages.
Punitive damages are often quite high in mass tort cases, because only a large amount of money gets the company’s attention and forces it to make changes. In some cases, a punitive damages cap may apply.
Tiny amounts of PFOA are sufficient to cause serious and permanent illnesses. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees and we only recover money if we win your case.