Activists in communities with PFAS contamination point out that it could take years for children and adults with high levels of these chemicals in their bodies to develop health problems as a result of their exposure.
By Cheryl Hogue
People who were significantly exposed to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) could sue makers of these chemicals to pay for health monitoring, says a bill introduced in the US Congress April 22.
If enacted into law, the legislation could mean significant liabilities for companies that did or do make these highly persistent “forever chemicals” and release them into the environment. The compounds are valued for their ability to repel water and oil and ability to withstand extreme conditions. Some, but not all, PFAS are toxic.
Activists in communities with PFAS contamination point out that it could take years for children and adults with high levels of these chemicals in their bodies to develop health problems as a result of their exposure. To catch such illness early and get treatment as soon as possible, they want medical monitoring.
“Making the polluters pay for it is undeniably logical,” Loreen Hackett, who lives in Hoosick Falls, New York, said at a briefing where the legislation (S. 1334 and H.R. 2751) was unveiled. Her community has drinking-water supplies tainted with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)—from a Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics plant formerly owned by Honeywell International.
The bill would allow US residents who’ve been exposed to PFAS to file federal suits seeking reimbursement for medical monitoring to detect health problems related to their exposure.
Currently, only Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Utah, and West Virginia allow such lawsuits, according to the Environmental Working Group, which advocates for strong regulation of PFAS. In other US jurisdictions, people must wait to file a legal claim until they are sick with a condition related to exposure.
The American Chemistry Council, the largest association of US chemical manufacturers, says of the bill, “On the surface this seems to be a radical departure from existing regulatory and legal processes that have been in place for decades.” The group faults the measure in part because it would treat all PFAS the same.
Originally published at Chemical and engineering news