3M is already facing several multi-million dollar lawsuits due to contamination of the water supply in various parts of the United States. The chemical industry giant is in headlines again this week as it wages an aggressive campaign to put off new regulations and avoid paying possibly billions of dollars in damages stemming from lawsuits 3M is likely to lose over the course of the next several months or even years.
Litany of Lawsuits
3M, the Minnesota-based company that makes some of the most commonly used office products, cleaning supplies, and home improvement products in the United States, is pulling out all the stops to deny liability in numerous lawsuits that have been filed in 2017 and 2018.
One federal suit filed by Deanna Arnold, who was diagnosed with renal cancer in August 2017, claimed that West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority knew its drinking water was unsafe for years before taking steps to remove the chemicals that included the toxins PFOS and PFOA (perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanic acid, respectively).
Arnold’s lawsuit claimed that 3M knew that dumping those hazardous chemicals contaminated the water in the Tennessee River, but 3M failed to warn consumers about the toxins until it was too late. At the time of this writing, Arnold’s lawsuit requests a jury trial and seeks both compensatory and punitive damages. It also seeks an injunction requiring the defendants to remove the toxic chemicals from the water supply.
PFOA and PFOS have been used for five decades in products including firefighting foam, Teflon, and Scotchgard. PFOA and PFOS take years to break down in the environment, and as such, they have been given the nickname “forever chemicals.” They also accumulate in human bodies and have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, immune disorders, and other illnesses.
3M’s liability was made public in February 2018, when the company reached an $850 million settlement with Minnesota for damage 3M chemicals caused to Minnesota drinking water. Then, the state of New York filed its own lawsuit, and outgoing Michigan Governor Rick Snyder asked his state’s attorney general to pursue litigation against 3M, also. Additionally, dozens of other personal injury, class action, and property damage lawsuits have been filed against 3M all over the country, and all told, experts say the company’s liability could reach tens of billions of dollars.
Coalition Defends 3M
While 3M is not answering many questions about the lawsuits, it has acknowledged its membership in a new advocacy group, the Responsible Science Policy Coalition.
3M’s PAC (political action committee) poured money into state-level campaigns this year including to attorney general candidates in Michigan, Ohio, California, and Alabama — all states with significant chemical contaminations.
Representatives of the Responsible Science Policy Coalition have met with several congressional offices and an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) political appointee recently, arguing that “the weight of current scientific evidence does not show that PFOS or PFOA cause adverse health effects in humans at current levels of exposure.” This argument contradicts findings by leading independent scientific researchers—the EPA and the CDC.
Materials from the Coalition show that human exposure to the dangerous chemicals is far below the levels that cause harm, but their efforts to dispute the extent of the harm caused by the chemicals have gotten the attention of Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
If you or a loved one has been made ill due to contaminated water or other environmental contamination, please contact the attorneys at Stag Liuzza to schedule a no-cost consultation. We represent victims of environmental contamination and people injured by toxic chemicals nationwide.