PFAS Class Action Lawsuits: Everything You Need to Know

Wondering, "Can I sue for PFAS exposure?" Millions of people are joining a PFAS personal injury lawsuit. Learn more about the growth of PFAS class action lawsuits.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), dubbed "forever chemicals," have become the subject of intense legal scrutiny due to their long-standing presence in the environment and potential adverse health effects.

These synthetic compounds are widely used in various industries for their water and stain-resistant properties. PFAS are present in everything from clothing to food packaging to nonstick cookware, and much more. Exposure to PFAS have been linked to serious health concerns, including certain cancers, developmental issues, and immune system dysfunction. As more information about the risks associated with PFAS exposure comes to light, a wave of legal actions has emerged. PFAS class action lawsuits are increasing among individuals and communities seeking justice and compensation from the corporations responsible for manufacturing and distributing these harmful substances.

Why Are Class Action Lawsuits Over PFAS Happening?

PFAS class action lawsuits are occuring because these PFAS have been found to contaminate water, air, and food. Common ways PFAS enter the environment include runoff from manufacturing sites, leaching from landfills, and use in firefighting foams. These contaminants can seep into groundwater, rivers, and lakes, affecting drinking water supplies. 

PFAS can also be released into the air during manufacturing processes and then settle onto soil and crops, entering the food chain. As a result, PFAS have been detected in the blood of many individuals, leading to growing health concerns [1].

More people are becoming aware of the presence of PFAS in their environment and their bodies, prompting a surge in lawsuits. These individuals are seeking justice and accountability from manufacturers who used PFAS without adequately addressing the risks. 

The lawsuits aim to hold these companies responsible for the contamination and to secure compensation for medical monitoring and clean-up efforts. The increasing awareness and demand for justice reflect a broader movement toward protecting public health and the environment from these persistent and harmful chemicals.

Types of PFAS and Their Potential Dangers

There are over 14,000 distinct PFAS compounds, each proving to be extremely persistent in nature and detrimental to our health [2]. 

PFAS like perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, also known as C8), and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, commonly known as Teflon), have been extensively used in industries ranging from cookware and textiles to firefighting foams and food packaging.

The industry became aware of the potential toxicity of PFAS as early as the 1960s. However, after scientific studies and investigations, public awareness of PFAS risks grew significantly in the late 1990s and early 2000s [3].

One of the key concerns surrounding PFAS is their persistence in the environment. Due to their robust chemical bonds, these compounds do not break down easily, leading to their accumulation in soil, water, and even wildlife. This persistence has resulted in widespread contamination, with PFAS detected in the blood of humans and animals across the globe.

Class Action Lawsuits for PFAS Victims

Prominent class action lawsuits have been filed against major PFAS manufacturers, such as 3M, DuPont, and Chemours, alleging that these companies knowingly concealed the dangers of PFAS and failed to adequately warn the public about the risks associated with their products.

These lawsuits seek financial compensation for affected individuals. They also demand independent investigations into the extent of PFAS contamination and remediation efforts to address the environmental and public health impacts.

Potential Problems with PFAS Class Action Lawsuits

One noteworthy case that has gained attention is Hardwick v. 3M, a class action lawsuit against the manufacturing giant 3M. In November 2023, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed this case, which has significant implications for other PFAS suits.

The ruling established that merely having detectable levels of PFAS in one's bloodstream is not enough for an individual to get compensation in a class action lawsuit. Plaintiffs must provide facts that plausibly connect the defendants (the companies) to the alleged harm and establish a clear pathway between the exposure and the potential health risks.

The facts must demonstrate a credible connection between the defendant's actions and the alleged PFAS exposure or contamination. 

Without this crucial element of "traceability," plaintiffs' cases are likely to face significant challenges, potentially leading to dismissal. One of the primary obstacles is the involvement of multiple defendants, as numerous corporations have been involved in the production and distribution of PFAS over the years and it can be hard to identify the culprit.

Additionally, establishing causation – linking specific health conditions to PFAS exposure – can be complex, requiring extensive scientific evidence and expert testimony. Nonetheless, legal teams specializing in environmental and toxic tort cases are well-equipped to navigate these challenges and build strong cases on behalf of their clients.

PFAS Class Action Lawsuits Victories

In the early 2000s, residents of Parkersburg, West Virginia, filed a class-action lawsuit against DuPont, alleging that the company had knowingly contaminated the area's water supply with PFAS chemicals used in the production of Teflon and other products. The lawsuit claimed that DuPont had been aware of the potential health risks associated with PFAS exposure but failed to take appropriate measures to protect the community.

After years of legal battles, DuPont agreed to a settlement in 2017, which included a $670 million payout to the plaintiffs. This settlement was a significant victory for the residents of Parkersburg and set a precedent for holding PFAS manufacturers accountable for their actions. It also inspired a major motion picture, Dark Waters, to tell the story of the lawyer who pursued the case.

The Parkersburg lawsuit has had far-reaching implications for public health. The settlement funds have been used to establish a comprehensive medical monitoring program for the affected residents, allowing them to receive regular health screenings and early detection of potential PFAS-related illnesses.

Furthermore, the case has raised awareness about the potential health risks associated with PFAS exposure, prompting regulatory agencies and policymakers to take action. As a result, stricter regulations and guidelines have been implemented to limit PFAS use and mitigate their environmental impact.

The Parkersburg lawsuit has also highlighted the need for environmental remediation and cleanup efforts in areas affected by PFAS contamination. For example, the settlement funds have been allocated to support water treatment initiatives, ensuring that communities have access to clean and safe drinking water.

Additionally, the case has encouraged other communities affected by PFAS contamination to come forward and seek legal action. This has put pressure on PFAS manufacturers to take responsibility for their actions and invest in environmentally responsible practices.

While the Parkersburg settlement was a significant victory, the legal battle against PFAS manufacturers is far from over. Several other lawsuits and multidistrict litigations are currently underway, involving communities across the United States and internationally. The outcomes of these cases could further shape regulations, drive innovation in safer alternatives, and promote a healthier environment for future generations.

The Role of Legal Representation in PFAS Class Action Lawsuits

Understanding the complexities of PFAS litigation can be daunting for individuals and communities affected by these harmful chemicals. This is where experienced legal representation becomes crucial. 

Law firms specializing in environmental and toxic tort cases play a vital role in assisting victims. These firms possess the expertise and resources necessary to navigate the intricate legal landscape, gather evidence, and build compelling cases against the corporations responsible for PFAS contamination. By leveraging their knowledge and experience, they can help ensure that affected individuals receive the compensation and justice they deserve.

Ways to Avoid PFAS

While not everyone may have the opportunity to join a class-action lawsuit against PFAS manufacturers, it doesn't mean you can't take proactive steps to reduce your exposure to these harmful chemicals. By making informed choices in our daily lives, we can advocate for our health and contribute to a safer environment.

Mindful Food Choices

One of the primary sources of PFAS exposure is through our diet. These chemicals can accumulate in the food chain, particularly in fish, meat, and dairy products. 

To minimize your intake, consider incorporating more plant-based options into your meals and opt for locally sourced, organic produce whenever possible. 

Additionally, avoid using non-stick cookware or grease-proof food packaging that may contain PFAS.

Filtered Water for Drinking and Cooking

PFAS contamination has been detected in many public water systems, making it important to consider investing in a high-quality water filtration system for your home. Short of that, even some pitcher filters now can remove PFAS. It is critical to look for filters specifically designed to remove PFAS compounds and ensure regular maintenance and replacement according to the manufacturer's recommendations. 

Careful Product Selection

PFAS are commonly found in various household products, such as stain-resistant carpets and furniture, waterproof clothing, and certain personal care items

When shopping, read labels carefully and opt for PFAS-free alternatives whenever possible. Don’t fall for greenwashing. PFOA-free or PTFE-free doesn’t mean that it’s free of all PFAS!

Get Involved Locally

While individual actions are important, addressing the PFAS issue requires a collective effort. Consider getting involved with local advocacy groups. Attend community meetings to voice your concerns and support stricter regulations on PFAS use and disposal. 

If you live near municipal airports, military sites, or other areas with known PFAS contamination, it's crucial to stay informed. Actively participate in the decision-making processes that affect your community's health and well-being. By raising awareness and advocating for change, we can create a safer and more sustainable future for ourselves and the generations to come.

The Future of PFAS Regulations

The rise of PFAS litigation represents a significant step towards holding corporations accountable for their actions and seeking justice for those affected by these harmful chemicals. As scientific evidence continues to shed light on the risks associated with PFAS exposure, legal efforts will play a crucial role in driving change, securing compensation for victims, and prompting corporations to adopt more responsible practices.