Did PFAS Manufacturers Know About Cancer Risk?

Did PFAS Manufacturers Know About Cancer Risk?

As Americans become more informed about the risks of being exposed to significant levels of per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS), people who have developed cancer and other serious health issues from defective products are seeking to hold manufacturers accountable for their negligence. In some cases, companies are being accused of manipulating or burying internal research that shows they were aware of the dangers of PFAS, and failed to warn regulatory agencies or consumers of their findings.

As a result, manufacturers have left themselves vulnerable to product liability lawsuits accusing them of negligence and leaving them financially responsible for the injuries and damages sustained by plaintiffs. A product liability attorney can assist you in gathering the evidence needed to establish liability and recover compensation for the physical, emotional, and economic losses you have incurred as a result of exposure to PFAS in a PFAS contamination lawsuit.

PFAS Are a Health Hazard Found in Many Common Products

Over 90% of Americans have at least trace amounts of PFAS in their blood, according to the CDC. This speaks to not only the pervasiveness of PFAS in our environment but also the longevity of PFAS. They are known as “forever chemicals” because they take an extremely long period of time to break down and linger in the environment and the bodies of organisms including humans. Once enough PFAS accumulate in a person’s body, they can cause severe problems in the reproductive system, immune system, and key organs.

These synthetic chemicals are found in a wide variety of products, including non-stick cookware, stain-resistant materials, and tampons. While exposure can occur through household items, this is typically not sufficient to cause significant health issues. More commonly, people are exposed through their occupation or through contaminated water or food sources. Recently, PFAs have been found in pesticides that have been used on food crops, once again demonstrating the prevalence of these toxic chemicals. Thus far, high levels of exposure to PFAS have been linked to the following health issues:Kidney cancer

Chemical Manufacturers Have a History of Concealing the Dangers of PFAS

With the level of damage that PFAS are capable of inflicting, manufacturers should have a clear obligation to alert consumers and regulatory agencies when they discover concerning levels in their products. Unfortunately, many manufacturers across various industries have failed in this regard, leaving their employees and surrounding communities vulnerable to decades of exposure to PFAS. One of the most egregious examples is the contamination of a West Virginia community by DuPont, one of the largest manufacturers of PFAS chemicals. 

The PFOAs in the Teflon that DuPont was manufacturing leached into the water supply, causing a host of life-threatening health issues in both residents and DuPont employees, including cancer, organ failure, and birth defects. DuPont researchers discovered that the PFOAs could cause liver issues, and eventually learned that these man-made chemicals were carcinogenic. Instead of reporting their findings to the EPA or sharing them with the public, they engaged in a deliberate cover-up. 

DuPont was not alone in this practice. Both DuPont and 3M have known for decades that PFAS accumulate in the body, and they were a threat to human health. By the 1980s, PFAS were a known carcinogen within 3M and DuPont. Instead of sounding the alarm, companies like 3M hired experts to de-emphasize the harmful capabilities of PFAS and manipulate internal findings to serve their purposes.

Manufacturers’ Negligence Leads to Increased Risk of Exposure to PFAS

More recently, the manufacturers of AFFF firefighting foam have been exposed for allowing their carcinogenic products to be sold and used as the industry standard in airports, at fire stations, and on military bases across the U.S. They did not provide a warning label that alerted users to the fact that they were handling carcinogens. As a result, firefighters and other employees who regularly handle AFFF firefighting foam have been directly exposed to PFAS after inhaling the toxins for decades. 

Another concern surrounding AFFF firefighting foam is that it is responsible for the contamination of communities surrounding military bases and airports, such as in the case of the Red Hill spill. Residents may unknowingly be drinking and bathing in contaminated water for years, significantly increasing their risk of developing a PFAS-related illness. Some AFFF manufacturers have already been driven into bankruptcy due to the magnitude of claims brought against them, while other companies and entities are working to decrease their PFAS output.

Private Sector and Government Efforts to Regulate and Reduce PFAS Exposure 

Currently, the U.S. has not imposed legal limits on manufacturers releasing PFAS byproducts into the environment. The EPA is proposing new limits on acceptable levels of PFAS in drinking water, which will be a meaningful step in reigning in the damage that manufacturers perpetuate. In the meantime, other government entities, such as the U.S. military, are working to diminish the levels of PFAS they produce. For example, the Air Force will significantly reduce their PFAS output by eliminating the use of AFFF firefighting foam, a large source of occupational and environmental contamination by 2024.

This effort is reflected by some portions of the private sector. 3M, a major chemical manufacturer, has announced its plans to cease PFAS production by 2025. The company is already facing hundreds of AFFF firefighting foam lawsuits from people who sustained both occupational and environmental exposure. Whether or not other manufacturers will follow suit remains to be seen, but with the new EPA regulations unfolding, it seems likely that adjustments will be made.

Contact a PFAS Lawyer for Help With Your PFAS Product Liability Lawsuit

In the meantime, people who have developed cancer or other health issues as a result of significant PFAS exposure may be entitled to seek compensation for their damages in product liability lawsuits. Personal injury attorneys are representing plaintiffs who have experienced life-threatening illnesses that created hefty medical bills, caused them to lose wages, and compromised their mental health. A personal injury attorney can offer you the legal insight to maximize your compensation.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

Learn More

Latest News