November 5, 2020

Geologists Call PFAS “One of the Most Toxic Substances Ever Identified”

PFAS Contamination Drives Geologists to Warn Public About Hazards of These “Forever Chemicals”

For decades, PFAS, or per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, remained relatively unknown to the general public. Odd, considering this chemical class contains over 3000 compounds and have been added to products for nearly a century.  

PFAS are manmade chemicals added to some of the most common and popular manufactured goods on the market. Since the 1940’s industries added PFAS to products including paints, plastics, and even microwavable popcorn bags. However, the public has remained oblivious to what they do or why manufacturers add PFAS to many of the most used and recognized household products.

Manufactures designed PFAS chemicals to be incredibly sturdy and resistant to grease, oil, heat, and water, making them ideal for products like firefighting foams and stain- and water-repellent fabrics. Because of this resilient design, for half a century manufacturers have extensively produced PFAS, leading to their widespread use in industries around the globe.

Despite their extensive use, the public has rarely to never heard of the extreme health risks associated with exposure to PFAS. In fact, geologists at the Geological Society of America (GSA) call PFAS “one of the most toxic substances ever identified.” In a recent press release, the GSA identified that even at extremely low concentrations, PFAS are extremely toxic and can cause severe health risks due to bioaccumulation.

PFAS earned the nickname of “forever chemicals,” because they do not break down over time, otherwise known as bioaccumulation. According to leaders in the health community, these compounds stay in the environment and the human body forever, steadily building up as time goes on. The GSA says PFAS can enter into the environment and get transported through groundwater, rivers, and soils, impacting every ecosystem they contact.

“PFAS don’t discriminate,” says Steve Sliver, GSA presenter and lead of Michigan state’s PFAS response team. “The sources are pretty much everywhere.”

Scientists at not only the GSA but the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry agree that this buildup of PFAS can cause severe health conditions over time, some of them potentially deadly. According to these researchers’ studies, the accumulation of PFAS in the body may cause side effects like low infant birth weights, thyroid hormone disruption, negative effects on the immune system, and increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer.

At the GSA’s 2020 Annual Meeting, geologists from across the country discussed the ramifications of PFAS in the environment, hoping to bring national attention to the risks of these substances. One of the presenters, Matt Reeves, a professor at Western Michigan University, said PFAS has bonds that are “among the strongest in all of chemistry,” lending to their nickname of being “forever chemicals.”

"It's almost like armor...we don't have any evidence of degradation of these compounds," Reeves says in an interview with the Geological Society of America.

With the mounting concerns of PFAS exposure across the country, some states have effectively implemented new measures to tackle the problem. Michigan has some of the strictest PFAS regulations in the country, placing the highest safety limit of one PFAS compound at 6 parts per trillion. This limit is far lower than the EPA’s guidelines.

“Michigan is the most proactive state of the nation in characterizing and studying PFAS, and with their legislation,” says Reeves. His talk at the GSA’s Annual Meeting, co-authored by Sliver, highlights the perpetual PFAS cycle on land and the difficulty of remediating sites identified with PFAS.

“Notice we don’t call it a ‘life cycle,’” Reeves says. “It’s a perpetual cycle. Many of these compounds do not naturally degrade, so there's no 'death.'”

PFAS in Firefighting Foam

As concerns continue to rise over PFAS exposure, many firefighters have filed complaints against firefighting foam manufactures for failing to warn them about the risks of PFAS in firefighting foam.

Like other products, manufactures have added PFAS to aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) since the early 20th century. Big-name companies like 3M Company, DuPont, and Chemours produced Class B AFFF to help fight oil and grease fires.

However, these manufactures never warned consumers about the health risks associated with PFAS. Sources say manufactures may have known as early as the 1940's about the risks of cancer but failed to include proper warnings on firefighting foam.

Firefighters in the military, industrial settings, and local fire departments regularly used PFAS-contaminated foam in both training and fire-fighting settings, leaving them exposed to PFAS toxicity. Additionally, many living in communities near firefighting stations, military bases, or industrial sites that used AFFF have found local drinking water has been contaminated by PFAS in firefighting foam run-off. Numerous claims from across the country say PFAS in firefighting foam caused various cancer diagnoses, including testicular cancer, ovarian cancer, skin cancer, and liver cancer.

Were You Exposed to PFAS in Firefighting Foam?

If you were exposed to PFAS in firefighting foam and developed cancer, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Allegations from across the country indicate AFFF manufacturers hid the health risks of PFAS for nearly a century, neglecting your well-being. Their negligence could mean the suffering of, potentially, millions over the last few decades, and this negligence should not remain unchecked.

By filing a product liability claim against AFFF manufacturers, you can hold the manufacturers accountable for their actions and protect future users of AFFF. Along with holding manufacturers responsible for their negligence, you have the opportunity to get the compensation you deserve to help you recover from your PFAS-related injuries. Those filing claims against AFFF makers are seeking compensation to help cover financial burdens caused by their PFAS injuries, including medical monitoring, medical bills, pain & suffering, and loss of income.

By hiring the lawyers with Justice for Firefighters for your case, you not only receive years of extensive legal experience on your side, but you also get someone who will fight aggressively for the success of your case from start to finish. Reach out to us today for your free case evaluation to see if you may qualify to file a claim for your PFAS-related injuries.

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