PFOA and PFOS Water Contamination

The presence of PFOA and PFOS in our drinking water is creating public health and unsafe drinking water supply issues in many communities across the country. While we can see, taste, and smell certain types of groundwater pollution, these two chemicals are not detectable without testing the drinking water for their presence.(1)
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But PFOA and PFOS present serious health concerns when present in drinking water supplies. As a result, the need for testing and treatment when the chemicals are present is crucial.  Recently, environmental regulatory agencies have detected these chemicals in drinking water across the country with increasing regularity.

“People are unable to protect themselves from the things they can’t see — such as chemicals like PFOA and PFOS that are in the air or their water,” said Nancy Christensen, an environmental attorney at Weitz & Luxenberg. “Our advocacy is designed to make sure that PFOA and PFOS contamination is no longer in people’s drinking water. People who have been harmed by past contamination should receive compensation for their losses and, when appropriate, medical monitoring to ensure early detection of disease that could be caused from such exposure.”

PFOA and PFOS are manmade chemicals that can be found in consumer products used by nearly every American over the past few decades. PFOA is perfluorooctanoic acid, which is perhaps best known as present in Teflon products produced by DuPont and in waterproof coatings manufactured by such companies as Saint-Gobain and Honeywell.  

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PFOS is perfluorooctane sulfonate, which the 3M Company and others used for years to make firefighting foam. Now, years later, these chemicals have seeped into the water supply in many communities.

If you believe you have been harmed by exposure to PFOA or PFOS contamination, you may be able to recover damages by filing a lawsuit against the responsible parties.

The environmental attorneys at Weitz & Luxenberg are already involved in civil litigation targeted at PFOA & PFOS contamination. They have filed class action lawsuits seeking property damage and medical monitoring for the communities impacted by these chemicals in their drinking water caused the manufacturing operations of Saint-Gobain and Honeywell in Hoosick Falls, New York and by Taconic Plastics in Petersburgh, New York

Our attorneys also filed a personal injury suit in mid-2016 on behalf of a Hoosick Falls resident who sustained personal injuries for his exposure to PFOA in his drinking water, and another in mid-2017, on behalf of a construction business that was negatively affected by PFOA contamination.  We will be filing many more in the months ahead.   

Additionally, Weitz & Luxenberg is pursuing civil actions in Pennsylvania federal and state courts on behalf of residents injured from drinking water containing PFOS and PFOA.  The contamination in those cases arises from the use of firefighting foam — referred to as aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) — that was manufactured using PFOS and PFOA.

A lawsuit has been filed against manufacturers of this firefighting foam that contaminated water supplies in Bucks and Montgomery counties in Pennsylvania. That suit has been filed against the 3M Company, Angus Fire, the Ansul Company, Buckeye Fire Protection Company, Chemguard, and National Foam.

PFOA and PFOS Are Widely Used and Remain in the Environment

For decades, DuPont, 3M, Saint-Gobain, and other companies manufactured and/or used PFOA, PFOS and other perfluorochemicals during the manufacture of products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. The products include nonstick cooking pans, stain-resistant furniture, cleaning supplies, clothing, and food containers. The brands associated are iconic household names such as Teflon, STAINMASTER, Scotchgard, and SilverStone. 

Because of their chemical structure, PFOS and PFOA resist the typical forms of environmental breakdown and are considered nonbiodegradable. The chemicals also resist breakdown in the human body, where they accumulate and remain for extended periods.(2) When their physical properties are coupled with their decades of use, it is no wonder that PFOA and PFOS are ubiquitous in the environment and commonly found in soil, water, air, and animal tissue.

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Mounting Evidence of the Dangers Caused by PFOA and PFOS

The use of the two chemicals in U.S. manufacturing has decreased over the past decade or so, but because they do not naturally break down, exposure risks persist. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, studies in humans have shown that exposure to the family of chemicals that includes PFOA and PFOS may affect developing infants and children, affect the immune system, decrease fertility, interfere with the body’s natural hormones, increase cholesterol counts, and heighten the risk of some cancers.(3)

Meanwhile, in 2013, a science panel that was convened to study the Mid-Ohio Valley communities that had been affected by releases of PFOA from a DuPont plant in West Virginia found a “probable link” between PFOA exposure and the incidence of six categories of diseases: high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, and pregnancy-induced hypertension.(4)

Amid heightened concern, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2014 classified PFOS and PFOA as “emerging contaminants,” which means the chemicals are a real or perceived threat to human health or the environment.  As a result, the Safe Drinking Water Act required larger water systems to monitor the levels of PFOA and PFOS in their water.(5)

In 2016, the mounting evidence of harm, combined with the prevalence of PFOA and PFOS in the drinking water supply, led the EPA to establish new drinking water advisories for PFOA and PFOS levels. These new advisories are markedly lower than its prior advisories and impact state and local agencies that manage water supplies.(6)

Weitz & Luxenberg at the Forefront of Water Contamination Lawsuits

Headed by attorney Robin L. Greenwald, Weitz & Luxenberg’s Environmental, Toxic Torts, and Consumer Protection Litigation group is at the forefront of environmental protection litigation.

Ms. Greenwald’s knowledge of environmental issues was first developed as an Assistant United States Attorney and Assistant Chief of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section. One of her most notable environmental accomplishments at our firm was as a member of the Plaintiffs Steering Committee in the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. She helped thousands of victims of the spill recover compensation.

This group at Weitz & Luxenberg also includes the efforts of Erin Brockovich, a long-time consumer advocate who first pointed out water contamination in Hinkley, California, 25 years ago. She has been a champion for water purity ever since and has taken a special interest in shining a light on issues involving PFOA contamination.

Weitz & Luxenberg has filed several class action lawsuits and is investigating other reports of PFOA and PFOS contamination in several towns across the country.

If you believe you have sustained an injury due to PFOA or PFOS water contamination, or you believe other contamination issues have affected your health or the health of family member, contact Weitz & Luxenberg at (800) 476-6070 or fill out the form on this page.

  1. U.S. EPA. (2016, November). Fact Sheet: PFOA & PFOS Drinking Water Health Advisories. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-06/documents/drinkingwaterhealthadvisories_pfoa_pfos_updated_5.31.16.pdf
  2. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. (2018, January 10). Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances and Your Health. Overview. Retrieved from https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/overview.html
  3. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. (2018, January 10). Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances and Your Health. PFAS Health Effects. Retrieved from https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/health-effects.html
  4. C8 Science Panel. (2017, January 4). The Science Panel Website. Retrieved from http://www.c8sciencepanel.org/
  5. U.S. EPA. (2014, March). Emerging Contaminants – Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) Retrieved from http://www.villageofhoosickfalls.com/Media/PDF/EPA-Emerging-Contaminants-PFOS-PFOA-March2014.pdf
  6. U.S. EPA. (2017, April 14). Ground Water and Drinking Water. Drinking Water Health Advisories for PFOA and PFOS. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/drinking-water-health-advisories-pfoa-and-pfos

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