A manufacturer of widely used products that contain perfluorocarbons (PFCs) recently settled a lawsuit with the State of Minnesota’s Attorney General’s Office, agreeing to provide $850 million to create a Water Quality and Sustainability Fund
supporting the Twin Cities East Metro area.
Dubbed “forever chemicals,” PFCs are a group of manmade compounds presumed to be a human health hazard and used in consumer products to protect carpets and other surfaces, as a flame retardant, and in firefighting foams.
According to the AG's compliant, from the 1950s until the 1970s, using practices legal at the time, the company disposed of wet PFC-containing wastes from its manufacturing processes
in trenches around the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. The chemicals leached out from the trenches and ultimately entered the local drinking water supply.
PFCs Found in Human Blood
In 1975, scientists contacted the company and reported the discovery of fluorocarbon compounds in human blood. The company “plead ignorance”
at the time, according to interoffice correspondence shared on the Minnesota AG’s website
, and did not report its knowledge of widespread human blood contamination until 1998.
Citing his disappointment with the company’s handling of the environmental risks associated with PFCs like perfluorinated sulfonates (PFOS), a company Environmental Specialist resigned in 1999, sending copies of his resignation letter
to both his employer and US EPA.
Companies, in cooperation with US EPA, began phasing out PFCs
from products the next year.
EPA has established a health advisory
for PFOS and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). According to EPA, the best science available indicates that overexposure to PFCs in drinking water may contribute to developmental effects on the unborn and infants, cancers, liver problems, etc.
The company announced the $850 million settlement in a press release, in which a spokesman stated that the company does not believe there is a PFC-related public health issue.
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