Michigan sues companies over 'forever chemical' contamination
Michigan is suing several companies over the use of PFAS chemicals, or “forever chemicals,” due to their persistence in the environment and human body.
“Who knew that firefighting foam, teflon, leather goods and clothing … are just a few of the thousands of industrial and consumer products made with defendants’ ‘forever’ PFAS chemicals that persist and build up in our environment?” asked Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) at a press conference on Tuesday.
“I’ll tell you who knew,” she continued, “The 17 defendants we sued today.”
In the lawsuit, Michigan accused the companies of manufacturing and using the chemicals “with full knowledge of PFAS health and environmental risks, which they intentionally hid from the public and the State.”
It also accused the companies of failing to act despite knowledge of health and environmental risks posed by PFAS.
The chemicals have also been the subject of Capitol Hill scrutiny.
The House on Wednesday passed legislation to regulate PFAS chemicals, although the legislation faces opposition from Republicans in the Senate as well as the White House that could preclude it from becoming law.
The bill would require the Environmental Protection Agency to set a mandatory drinking water standard for PFAS.
Among the defendants in Tuesday’s lawsuit were companies 3M, Dupont and Chemours, whose representatives were grilled by lawmakers at a hearing last year.
A 3M spokesperson told The Hill in a statement on Tuesday that it “disagrees” with the allegations in Michigan’s suit.
“We acted responsibly in connection with products containing PFAS and will vigorously defend our record of environmental stewardship,” the statement said.
“We have placed thousands of documents in the public domain, including more than 150 published studies conducted by 3M and other researchers on potential environmental and health effects of PFAS,” the spokesperson added. “3M did not and will not distort the science.”
A spokesperson for DuPont told The Hill in a statement on Tuesday that the company had not received the complaint, but that it is “extremely disappointed they have taken this action we believe is without merit.”
“Across our portfolio, DuPont’s use of other PFAS is a small fraction of the total PFAS used in the world. While our use is extremely small, we’re actively pursuing alternatives to PFAS where possible in our manufacturing processes,” the statement said.
“We are, and have always been, committed to upholding the highest standards for the wellbeing of our employees, our customers and the communities in which we operate, and we will vigorously defend our record of safety, health and environmental stewardship,” it continued.
Minnesota has previously settled a 2018 lawsuit over PFAS impacts for $850 million.
Updated: 8:20 p.m.