Illinois accuses 3M, DuPont, other manufacturers of contaminating state’s drinking water and land with toxic forever chemicals – Chicago Tribune newstrendslive

Manufacturers should be held accountable for contaminating the state’s drinking water and land with toxic forever chemicals, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said Wednesday in a lawsuit targeting some of the nation’s biggest corporations.

Pioneers 3M and DuPont, as well as more than a dozen other companies, are accused of conspiring to hide the dangers of chemicals also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS. By selling chemicals that corporate executives knew long ago are harmful, Raoul alleges, the companies violated 10 Illinois laws and the state’s constitutional guarantee of a clean environment.

Two of the most commonly detected PFAS are so toxic there is effectively no safe level of exposure, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Used in consumer products such as clothing, food packaging and cookware, the chemicals build up in human blood, take years to leave the body and are linked to health problems including cancer.

Illinois joins several other states, including California, Minnesota, North Carolina and New York, that previously filed lawsuits against PFAS manufacturers.

The Illinois complaint isn’t as expansive as California’s demand for corporate-financed medical monitoring. Yet the growing list of lawsuits facing 3M, DuPont and the other companies highlights how states are filling a void left by the federal government, which has repeatedly failed to regulate PFAS despite well-documented hazards.

“For decades, manufacturers have been aware of the dangers of PFAS yet still promote the chemicals as being safe to use,” Raoul said in a statement. “As a result, PFAS have contaminated our water supplies across Illinois.”

More than 8 million people in the state — 6 out of every 10 Illinoisans — get their drinking water from a utility where at least one forever chemical has been detected, a 2022 Chicago Tribune investigation found. Worrisome concentrations can be found in farm fields and gardens fertilized with PFAS-laden sewage sludge.

In December, the Tribune reported a 3M manufacturing plant near the Quad Cities has been releasing PFAS into the Mississippi River and emitting the chemicals into the air without limits since 1975.

Once-secret 3M documents unearthed during previous lawsuits show top executives knew about the harmful effects of PFAS as early as the 1950s, when the company began mass-producing perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) to make Scotchgard, a widely used stain repellent, and selling perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) to DuPont to manufacture Teflon coatings for cookware, clothing and wiring.

Since the early 2000s, 3M and DuPont have paid nearly $2 billion combined to settle lawsuits without accepting responsibility for contaminated drinking water or diseases suffered by people exposed to forever chemicals.

On Wednesday 3M said in a statement it “acted responsibly in connection with its manufacturing operations and products containing PFAS and will vigorously defend its record of environmental stewardship.” The company announced last month it will stop making all PFAS by 2025.

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DuPont, which in 2015 spun off its chemicals division into a separate company called Chemours and left it responsible for PFAS-related liabilities, has stressed it no longer makes forever chemicals. Other companies have sought to remove themselves from state litigation by arguing they never manufactured the PFAS of greatest concern.

The Illinois lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, is Raoul’s second attempt to seek damages from 3M.

State lawyers are appealing a decision that transferred a March 2022 complaint to federal court from state proceedings in Rock Island County, where one of 3M’s three PFAS manufacturing plants in the United States is located. The company lost a bid to move Raoul’s earlier lawsuit to a federal court in South Carolina considering more than 2,000 complaints about firefighting foam made with PFAS.

In his latest complaint, Raoul stresses his office is focusing on other uses of the chemicals, not firefighting foam. He is seeking payment to test for and clean up PFAS contamination statewide and penalties under the state’s consumer fraud and deceptive business practices law.

“While Illinois has taken recent action to address other modes of PFAS contamination, like banning the incineration of these harmful chemicals and phasing out their use in firefighting foam, the state has a long way to go to limit pollution from other sources,” said Jack Darin, director of the Illinois Sierra Club.

Federal officials are now poised to step into the fray. The Biden administration is proposing to list PFOS and PFOA as hazardous substances under federal law, which would make it easier to force polluters to clean up contaminated sites at their own expense. Other rule-making is expected to establish the first enforceable limits on the chemicals in drinking water.

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