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DuPont, Chemours and Corteva to pay $1.2 billion in water pollution lawsuits




Three US chemical companies say they have reached a $1.185 billion settlement over complaints about toxic contaminants known as “forever chemicals” in drinking water systems.

The pollutants, polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances – commonly known as PFAS – are found in many industrial and cosmetic products and have been linked to infertility, thyroid disorders and several types of cancer. The chemicals have been found in drinking water consumed by thousands of American communities and in products used by millions of Americans.

The substances are called “forever chemicals” because they do not naturally break down in the environment. They also move easily through soil, contaminating drinking water sources and affecting fish and wildlife.

An agreement was reached Friday by DuPont de Nemours Inc., Chemours Company and Corteva Inc., to “comprehensively resolve all PFAS-related drinking water claims from a defined class of public water systems serving the vast majority of the United States population,” it said the companies in a joint statement.

“The companies will collectively establish and contribute a total of $1.185 billion to a settlement fund,” it added.

The EPA is proposing rules to limit “forever chemicals” in drinking water

Chemical PFAS components are found in commercial and industrial products, including fire-fighting foam, food packaging, household cleaning products, shampoos and cosmetics, and non-stick cookware.

Several US states and other countries have banned certain types of PFAS, and many large companies say they will stop using them, but the compounds have shown up in the water supplies of communities around the world.

Because of their persistence in the natural environment, “many PFASs are found in the blood of humans and animals worldwide and are present at low levels in a variety of food products and in the environment,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The agency warned last year that the chemicals pose a greater danger to human health than regulators previously thought.

The effect of PFAS exposure on human health remains “uncertain,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New technology may one day scrub “forever chemicals” from your tap water

Friday’s settlement agreement came ahead of a trial scheduled to begin Monday in U.S. District Court in Charleston, SC, in a claim brought by residents of Stuart, Fla. — one of hundreds of similar claims across the country alleging harm from PFAS. The agreement still requires approval by the judge overseeing the claims, the Associated Press reports.

“This settlement represents the first of many steps to begin redressing the damage caused by PFAS contamination in America’s drinking water supplies,” law firms representing the plaintiffs said in a statement to the AP.

“This settlement by DuPont, in our mind’s eye, really only deals with a fraction of this pollution,” Michael London, a lawyer for one of the firms taking legal action, told the news agency.

The settlement excludes some water systems, including those owned by states or the federal government, and smaller water systems.

EPA warns toxic ‘forever chemicals’ more dangerous than once thought

In March, the EPA proposed the nation’s first drinking water standards for PFAS, which could require water utilities to detect and limit PFAS to 4 parts per trillion. The proposal could force the companies to spend billions of dollars to comply with the EPA’s planned limits.

Many lawsuits are ongoing against companies that use PFAS in their products. New Mexico’s attorney general on Thursday sued 21 companies that produced “forever chemicals,” seeking damages for environmental damage and cleanup costs. Meanwhile, in Australia, landowners whose properties were contaminated by PFAS secured a $132.7 million settlement from the government last month. The lawsuit said the government had failed to prevent the chemicals, used in firefighting foam at Air Force bases, from leaking into nearby soil and groundwater.

Others seek solutions within technology. Canadian researchers said this year they had developed a filter method to remove “forever chemicals” from drinking water, potentially destroying the compounds permanently.

Timothy Puko contributed to this report.



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