SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A lawsuit filed Thursday by the state of California accuses 3M, Dupont and 16 smaller companies of covering up the damage done to the environment and the public by chemicals the companies manufactured and made their way over decades found in the waterways and human bloodstreams.
Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the lawsuit against the makers of compounds used in consumer and industrial products since the 1940s. The chemicals can be found in fire-fighting foams, non-stick frying pans, cleaning sprays, waterproof sports gear, stain-resistant carpets, cosmetics and countless other products.
Bonta said these so-called eternal chemicals are so potent that they do not break down or break down slowly in the environment and linger in a person’s bloodstream indefinitely.
The companies have known for decades that the chemicals “are toxic and harmful to human health and the environment, yet they continued to produce them for mass use and conceal their harms from the public,” Bonta said.
He said the lawsuit stems from a multi-year investigation that found the companies marketed products containing PFAS, short for polyfluoroalkyl substances, despite knowing they cause cancer, developmental disabilities, decreased bone density and other health problems.
Minnesota-based 3M said in a statement following the court filing that it “has acted responsibly around products containing PFAS and will defend its record of environmental responsibility.”
Delaware-based Dupont said the company as it now exists should not have been named in the lawsuit.
“In 2019, DuPont de Nemours was formed as a new multi-industry specialty products company. DuPont de Nemours has never made PFOA, PFOS or fire-fighting foam. While we do not comment on pending litigation, we believe these complaints are unfounded. and the recent example of DuPont de Nemours being improperly named in a lawsuit,” the statement said.
The lawsuit filed in Alameda County is the first statewide lawsuit alleging PFAS contamination.
She alleges violations of state consumer protection and environmental laws and invokes a federal law that provides a way to recoup the cost of cleaning up pollutants in soil and water.
Bonta estimated that the penalties and remediation costs sought by the lawsuit would reach hundreds of millions of dollars.
US manufacturers have voluntarily phased out compounds like PFAS, but there are limited ongoing uses and the chemicals remain in the environment because they do not degrade over time.
The Federal Environmental Protection Agency in June asked states and territories to seek $1 billion under new bipartisan infrastructure legislation to tackle PFAS and other contaminants in drinking water. The money can be used for technical assistance, water quality testing, contractor training and the installation of a central treatment, officials said.
The EPA warned at the time that the chemicals were more dangerous than previously thought and posed health risks even at concentrations so low that they cannot currently be detected.