New Mexico’s Environmental Department and Attorney General Raúl Torrez have filed a lawsuit against companies using forever chemicals.
A History of PFAS
According to the Keck School of Medicine, forever chemicals are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The chemicals are man-made and used in various consumer and industrial plants. PFAS break down slowly and accumulate in human tissue and the environment, posing health and safety risks.
According to LiveScience, PFAS were first invented in the 1930s to make a nonstick, waterproof coating. Items containing PFAS began to be mass-produced in the following decade. Now PFAS are commonly found in cleaning products, cell phones, firefighter foams, and personal care products, among numerous other, commonly used products.
New Mexico officials have sued 21 companies, including 3M and DuPont, for manufacturing and distributing this man-made chemical. Officials claim the companies knowingly distributed the chemicals into the environment through the foams that firefighters use during training and emergencies. The lawsuit seeks for the companies to pay for the cleanup and restoration of natural resources affected by their negligence.
New Mexico environmental personnel believe the chemicals have seeped into aquifers. Aquifers are rocks or sediments that hold groundwater to be transported to wells and springs, and according to AP, 80% of New Mexico residents depend on these underground reservoirs for their drinking water.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the consequences of prolonged exposure to PFAS are changes in liver enzymes, increased risk of blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women, and increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer, to name only a few harmful consequences of PFAS. The contaminated water could pose any of these risks to the people of New Mexico when ingested.
Stuart, Florida, knows all too well the environmental damage caused by the mishandling of chemicals. Last year the city filed a lawsuit against 3M, stating the aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) that the company produced contaminated their water system.
AFFF is the foam that firefighters use to put out petroleum-based fires. AFFF contains PFAS, which impact human health and well-being. As of today, AFFFs are still used in dire situations. The lawsuit is ongoing as of June 6th of this year. The two parties are currently in the settlement stage.
Many states are working to regulate the number of products made with forever chemicals. Maine, Colorado, New York, Pennsylvania, and California have all created laws to help combat the mishandling and misuse of PFAS following their own legal battles.
California and New York have both banned the intentional use of PFAS in paper products such as disposable plates, cups, and bowls. Colorado has stopped the use of foams containing PFAS. Pennsylvania currently works to have all water sources regularly monitored and treated for PFAS. Maine has banned the intentional production of products such as carpets, rugs, and fabric treatments that contain PFAS.
Currently, there are no federal laws on PFAS, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is committed to regulating the amount of PFAS allowed in clean drinking water. The EPA has proposed that the PFAS in drinking water should be reported at four parts per trillion, and public water systems will be required to monitor their water to ensure pollution levels do not exceed the proposed amount.