Environment

AG Healey joins nationwide lawsuits against PFAS manufacturers

Companies like 3M, DuPont, and Tyco are being sued for their role in PFAS contamination.

Craig F. Walker
Maura Healey filed a lawsuit Wednesday calling for "manufacturers to reimburse the state" for damages caused by PFAS contamination. Craig F. Walker

Attorney General Maura Healey filed a lawsuit Wednesday that joins Massachusetts with hundreds of plaintiffs around the country who are attempting to hold chemical companies accountable for their contributions to PFAS contamination.

State House News Service (SHNS) reported Wednesday that the lawsuit names 13 PFAS manufacturers, including 3M, DuPont, and Tyco, as well as two companies alleged to have shielded money that could have been used for PFAS remediation, as defendants.

Healey’s office told the service that the lawsuit is seeking “costs to clean up and remove, restore, treat, and monitor PFAS contamination and an order requiring the manufacturers to reimburse the state for the damages its products caused.”

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The lawsuit, which was filed in  the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, will be combined with hundreds of similar suits from across the country.

The lawsuit addresses the harms done by PFAS contamination. Studies have shown that PFAS, or per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, liver disease, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia during pregnancy, and low infant birth weights, according to the CDC.

Currently, PFAS can be found everywhere — in clothes, food, cookware, and maybe even in water.

In all likelihood, most people already have low levels of PFAS in their bodies. They are often called “forever chemicals,” as they can take a very long time to break down.

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Last month, after studying the chemicals for a year, the Massachusetts PFAS Task Force recommended the state regulate PFAS chemicals as a class, prohibit the sale of products with knowingly-added PFAS, and educate the public on PFAS and their dangers.

In February, a dozen Massachusetts firefighters filed their own lawsuit against PFAS manufacturers, citing firefighters’ extensive exposure to PFAS, which is used in firefighting foam and gear due to the chemicals’ high level of heat resistance.

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On Wednesday, SHNS reported that Healey said the lawsuit forces PFAS manufacturers to “pay back every last dollar our state has spent on their products to clean up the contamination.”

SHNS reported that dangerous levels of PFAS contamination have been found in more than 126 public drinking water systems in 86 Massachusetts communities. These communities include Chicopee, Weymouth, Abington, Rockland, and Stow.

In Healey’s lawsuit, SHNS reported, she says the manufacturers knew PFAS are dangerous and harmful, but still chose to deceptively and illegal market them as safe.

“Their actions violate state and federal laws that are intended to protect our residents,” SHNS quoted Healey saying. “These are manufacturers who attempted to hide just how dangerous this foam was, who prevented their workers from discussing the dangers of their products despite the fact that PFAS was toxic. These makers continued to make and sell their products without disclosing the harms, they downplayed the presence of PFAS.”

SHNS reported that Healey did not list an amount of money sought in the suit. But, the service reported, the Baker administration has already spent at least $110 million to address PFAS contamination since 2015.

Attorneys at state and local levels across the country are piling on to sue PFAS manufacturers for their role in PFAS contamination. Bloomberg Law reported this week that over 1,200 PFAS-related lawsuits were filed last year.

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“If PFAS went into a company’s finished product, odds are it’s being sued,” Bloomberg Law reporter Andrew Wallender wrote.

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