Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were created around eighty years ago. These chemicals have since reached the Arctic, been found in oceans, and been found in the tissues of animals such as pilot whales and polar bears.
PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they persist in the environment for a very long time, as they break down extremely slowly.
A 2007 study determined that 98 percent of people in the United States have PFAS in their blood.
PFAS manufacturers have seen countless lawsuits filed against them. These lawsuits allege that harmful products containing PFAS ended up contaminating the environment.
PFAS manufacturer 3M, who manufactured firefighting foam containing PFAS, announced in December that it would no longer make or use PFAS by the year 2025.
A recent lawsuit claimed that Thinx period underwear contained PFAS. Thinx reached a settlement in 2022, claiming that the design of their products did not contain PFAS.
The Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed federal limits regarding the amount of PFAS in drinking water. The proposal would force water systems to remove PFAS from water supplies.
The effects of PFAS on human health are still being studied.
What Are PFAS?
PFAS are chemicals which have been used in industrial manufacturing and consumer products for around 80 years. They are often used for slippery coatings which repel stains or water.
PFAS are found in numerous products, such as cosmetics and carpets. They can be found in electronics manufacturing, dental floss and food wrappers. They are also used in AFFF firefighting foam, which is used at military bases and airports.
PFAS persist in the environment and in the human body for a very long time. This is due to the fact that they consist primarily of flourine atoms which are bonded to carbon atoms. The flourine/carbon bond is one of the strongest chemical bonds that science knows of.
Because PFAS persist in the environment and in the human body for a long time, they can accumulate in the environment and in the human body.
How Do PFAS Get In Human Bodies?
Many people end up having PFAS enter their bodies by eating them or by drinking water with them in it. An estimated 110 million Americans have PFAS in their drinking water, according to Environmental Working Group. Many people encounter PFAS when they are exposed to consumer products.
Over 2,800 United States locations have PFAS in drinking water, according to Environmental Working Group. Many of the locations are close to military bases, where AFFF firefighting foam was used for years in exercises. Manufacturing plants which manufacture products containing PFAS are another source of drinking water contamination. Airports are another source of drinking water contamination, as firefighting foam is used at airports.
PFAS in food packaging can end up in food. Dairy and produce may contain PFAS due to fertilizer containing PFAS.
Those who fish or hunt may eat meat containing PFAS. Michigan, in January, issued a recommendation that people avoid rainbow smelt or limit its consumption due to PFOS being detected in the fish in lakes in the state. Other states have also issued similar warnings after finding PFAS in fish and game.
People who work some jobs face an elevated risk of PFAS exposure due to tools they use on the job. These jobs include working with ski wax, laying carpets, painting, firefighting and being a member of the military.
Some PFAS haven’t been used by companies for about 20 years, and this has led to a reduction in levels of certain PFAS in the blood of United States residents.
PFAS, after being swallowed, get absorbed by the intestine. From there, they travel to the liver, pass into bile and end up in the gallbladder. Digestion causes bile to enter the small intestine, and when this occurs, PFAS are absorbed into the blood. PFAS can also be absorbed into the blood via the kidneys instead of being removed from the body via urine. PFAS can also attach itself to blood proteins. For these reasons, PFAS can remain in the human body for many years.
What Is The EPA Proposing Regarding PFAS?
The EPA has proposed limits for the amount of PFAS in drinking water.
The agency proposed a limit of 4 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA, this amount representing each chemical’s current detection limit.
The agency also proposed limiting PFBS, GenX, PFHxS and PFNA in drinking water using a system which determines if the combined amount of the four chemicals exceeds a certain limit.
The agency also proposed PFAS monitoring requirements, mandatory reporting to the public when amounts of PFAS exceeding the proposed limits are found in drinking water, and water treatment requirements.
Can PFAS Harm People?
Comprehensive testing regarding the amount of PFAS in Americans’ blood hasn’t been done, so it’s hard to know who has been exposed the most to PFAS. CDC blood testing hasn’t studied highly contaminated communities where people are exposed to a lot of PFAS. It’s difficult to assess the harms of PFAS to the public because of this.
However, PFAS have been linked by scientific research to:
- Cancers, including kidney and testicular cancers
- Cholesterol increases
- Liver damage
- Negative impact on the immune system’s ability to fight infections
- Interference with hormones like thyroid hormones
- Developmental delays and developmental effects in children, such as bone variations, behavioral changes or low birth weight
- Reduced vaccine effectiveness
- Reproductive effects such as higher blood pressure in the pregnant
Many lawsuits have been filed against PFAS manufacturers claiming that PFAS manufacturers knew or should have known that PFAS were harmful but failed to warn about the risk of harm associated with them. These lawsuits point out that scientific research has found that PFAS are harmful and can persist in the body and environment for a long time:
- 1950: A 3M study discovers PFAS accumulation in the blood of mice.
- 1956: A Stanford study discovers that PFAS binds to blood proteins.
- 1961: A toxicologist with DuPont warned that rabbit and rat livers get enlarged due to PFAS exposure.
- 1963: A 3M technical manual states that PFAS are toxic.
- 1965: A DuPont study discovers that PFAS cause liver damage and an increase in spleen size in rats.
- 1966: A study by 3M finds that rats exposed to PFAS experience “acute oral toxicity.”
- 1970: A magazine is warned by 3M about the toxicity of PFAS in fish.
- 1970: Scientists with DuPont state that PFAS are “highly toxic” upon inhalation.
- 1973: DuPont finds that there isn’t a safe level of PFAS in the packaging of food.
- 1975: 3M learns PFAS accumulates in the blood of people.
- 1975: 3M is told by DuPont that PFAS in the packaging of food has “toxic effects.”
- 1977: 3M discovers that PFOS is more toxic than they thought it was.
- 1978: 3M discovers that PFOA and PFOS should be considered toxic.
- 1981: A study by 3M discovers that animal fetuses’ eyes are damaged by PFAS.
- 1983: 3M states that it concerns them that PFAS might harm the immune system.
- 1984: PFAS are found by DuPont in the tap water of Little Hocking, Ohio, and DuPont doesn’t alert the water system.
- 1987: Tumors are found in a 3M animal study regarding PFOA.
- 1989: 3M finds that workers who are exposed to PFAS see higher rates of cancer.
- 1990: Testicular cancer is linked to PFOA by a 3M study.
- 1992: A scientist who used to be with 3M finds that workers who get exposed to PFOA see a higher risk of dying of prostate cancer.
- 1995: A scientist with DuPont expresses concern that PFAS can have long-term effects on health because it stays in the body for a long time.
- 1997: Higher cancer rates are discovered by DuPont in workers at their plant in Parkersburg, where the use of PFOA occurred.
- 1998: The EPA is given evidence by 3M that PFAS accumulates in blood.
- 1998: It is found by a scientist with 3M that a “significant risk” that the environment can be harmed by PFOS exists, and that PFOS moves down the food chain.
- 1999: A scientist with 3M calls PFOS an “insidious” pollutant, noting that “it does not degrade.”
- 2000: A 3M study discovers that liver damage is caused by PFOS in animals.
How Can PFAS Harm People?
Some mechanisms have been proposed regarding how PFAS may cause certain health conditions:
- Hypercholesterolemia: Animal studies have found that PFOS and PFOA increase lipid metabolism in rats by acting as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) agonists. However, in humans, higher PFOS levels are associated with higher cholesterol levels, highlighting a reduction in expression of PPAR and suggesting that PPAR independent pathways predominate over the metabolism of lipids in people compared to in rodents.
- Ulcerative colitis: PFOS and PFOA have been found to alter inflammatory and immune responses in animals and humans. PFOA has been found to cause a reduction in C-reative protein, IgE and IgA, and has been found to cause an increase in antinuclear antibodies. This hints that autoimmunity may be occurring. It has been proposed that this occurs because T-helpers or M2 macrophages respond in the epithelial tissue of the intestines, allowing for bacteria that reduce sulfates to flourish. This causes higher hydrogen sulfide levels to result, reducing beta-oxidation and the production of nutrients, causing the epithelial barrier of the colon to break down.
- Thyroid disease: PFAS have been discovered to lead to a decrease in thyroid peroxidase, causing decreased activation and production of thyroid hormones. It has also been proposed that PFAS can alter thyroid hormone signaling, excretion and metabolism, in addition to nuclear hormone receptor function.
- Cancer: The C8 Science Panel found a probable link between kidney and testicle cancers and exposure to PFOA. It has been proposed that PFOA causes increased activation of PPAR alpha in the liver, and that this leads to an increase of hepatic aromatase concentration as well as higher levels of estrogen. It has been proposed that this either leads to testicular cancer due to an increase of Tissue Growth Factor alpha, or due to a decrease of testosterone levels causing an increase in luteinizing hormone.
- Pregnancy-induced hypertension: It has been proposed that PFAS may cause pregnancy-induced hypertension by altering immune system, which leads to placentation disruption. It has also been proposed that PFAS may cause this condition by altering uric acid, triglyceride and cholesterol levels, leading to high blood pressure and vascular inflammation.
Can PFAS In Blood Be Tested?
Tests exist which can find PFAS in blood. They aren’t given often in the United States, though. Most people who received these tests took part in studies on health.
Blood tests for PFAS won’t indicate if someone has any specific disease.
The CDC, as well as independent researchers, are studying the links between PFAS exposure via drinking water and conditions such as high cholesterol, liver disease and thyroid disease.
This research involves volunteers having their blood tested. The volunteers are from eight locations where the drinking water has been found to contain PFAS.
What Can I Do If I’ve Become Sick Because Of Exposure To PFAS?
Nadrich & Cohen is here to help if you or a loved one have developed an illness because of PFAS exposure. We may be able to help you recover financial compensation for medical bills, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, pain, suffering, wrongful death and more.
We have been handling cases involving exposure to hazardous chemicals such as PFAS, paraquat and asbestos since 1990. We have recovered over $350,000,000 on behalf of clients. We are experts at proving that our clients became sick because they were exposed to a dangerous chemical, and proving that chemical manufacturers are financially liable for our clients’ injuries.
We don’t charge a fee until and unless we win your case. You will never owe us any money out of pocket.
Call us today for a free consultation or text us from this page if you or a loved one was injured by PFAS exposure. You may qualify for financial compensation in a PFAS lawsuit.