Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a pair of complaints on August 21 in state and federal court over contamination with firefighting foam containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
The lawsuits seek to protect Michigan’s environment and recover costs and damages related to firefighting foam contamination. PFOA and aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) have been linked to numerous types of cancer.
The state court lawsuit seeks to recover damages from manufacturers of commercial-grade AFFF which was sold to Michigan customers and the federal lawsuit seeks to recover damages from AFFF manufacturers, including Dupont, 3M, National Foam, Chemguard and others. Both lawsuits allege that defendants intentionally hid the danger inherent in PFAS and deliberately, recklessly and knowingly distributed, sold, transported, released, supplied, arranged for disposal or treatment and handled and used AFFF in a manner they knew would contaminate Michigan and harm its residents.
“These actions continue my office’s efforts to protect our residents and our state’s natural resources and property from the dangers posed by PFAS in the environment,” Nessel said. “As with the lawsuit already filed for PFAS contamination from non-AFFF sources, these lawsuits seek recovery of damages, remediation costs and other relief needed due to PFAS contamination from AFFF in the State of Michigan. Michigan taxpayers should not have to pay for this massive undertaking – those who profited from the manufacture and sale of these harmful chemicals should.”
“The companies that made and sold AFFF knew about the risks to human health and the environment resulting from use of these foams, yet they continued to sell them without warning buyers of the danger,” said Liesl Clark, director of Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. “In keeping with our legislative mandate that parties responsible for pollution should pay for clean-up, the State is seeking compensation from the companies who profited from the sale of AFFF that now contaminates Michigan’s environment.”
PFOA “may be associated with testicular, kidney, prostate, and ovarian cancers and non-Hodgkin lymphoma,” according to a 2013 study. A U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs warning claims there are links between AFFF and an increased risk of prostate cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, testicular cancer and kidney cancer. PFOA has been designated “possibly carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization. The CDC says PFAS may “increase the risk of some cancers.”
PFAS persist in the human body and their levels build up as people are exposed to them more. An October 2019 scientific review found “unacceptably high” levels of PFAS in the bodies of firefighters who used AFFF and a February 2020 study found that female firefighters had more PFAS in their bodies than did office workers.