Three water treatment companies – Chemours, DuPont, and Corteva – have agreed to pay $1.185 billion to settle thousands of litigations on water contamination across the United States. The companies agreed to shell out the money to settle claims of contaminating public water systems with PFAS otherwise known as “forever chemicals.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) said that PFOS and PFOA which are types of PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) are chemicals that stay in the environment and in the human body without breaking down over many years – hence the name forever chemicals.
The body of chemicals is found in fast-food wrappers, makeup, carpeting, aqueous film-forming foams used by the fire department, plastics, pizza boxes, and in pesticides. Experts said the chemicals are used in consumer and industrial goods because of their resistance to water, oil, and heat. They also remain almost permanent in water, soil, air, and food where they cause serious harm to human health.
The CDC in one study said about 97% of Americans have PFAS in their blood, with one of the lawyers fighting for the plaintiffs in the lawsuits saying “They knew that their chemical…was in the blood of the general population: every man, woman and child. They deliberated whether or not to tell the EPA. They ultimately decided not to. And then they sat on it for 22 years.”
Another lawyer, Ned McWilliams, stated that “Next to global warming, this is the biggest environmental catastrophe to ever happen.” Chemours agreed to contribute $592 million, DuPont to contribute $400 million, and Corteva to pay up to $193 million for the settlement. The final settlement will be finalized before the end of the year at the US District Court in the District of South Carolina.