Chemical giants reach $1.2 billion to settle Forever Chemicals in the water

Three US chemical companies said they have reached a $1.185 billion settlement deal over complaints of toxic pollutants known as “forever chemicals” in their drinking water systems.

PFAs and PFAs – known as PFAS – can be 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 the drinking water consumed by thousands of American communities and in the products used by millions of Americans.

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

The deal was reached on Friday by DuPont de Nemours Inc. Chemours Company, Corteva Inc. , for “a comprehensive solution to all PFAS-related drinking water claims for a specific class of public water systems that serve the vast majority of the US population,” the companies said in a joint statement.

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

The Environmental Protection Agency proposes rules to reduce “forever chemicals” in drinking water

PFAS chemical components are found in commercial and industrial products including firefighting foam, food packaging, household cleaning products, shampoos, cosmetics, and nonstick cookware.

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

Because it persists in the natural environment, “many PFAS are found in the blood of people and animals around the world, and they are present at low levels in a variety of food products and in the environment,” according to the EPA. The agency warned last year that the chemicals posed a greater risk to human health than regulators previously thought.

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

New technology could one day clean the “forever chemicals” out of tap water

The settlement agreement came Friday ahead of a trial set to begin Monday in US District Court in Charleston, South Carolina, in a lawsuit brought by residents of Stewart, Florida — one of hundreds of similar lawsuits across the country alleging tort from PFAS. The deal still requires the approval of the judge overseeing the allegations, the Associated Press reported.

“This agreement represents the first of many steps to begin addressing damages from PFAS contamination in America’s drinking water supply,” the law firms representing the plaintiffs said in a statement to the Associated Press.

“This settlement by DuPont, in our minds, deals with a fraction of that pollution,” Michael London, an attorney for one of the firms suing, told the news agency.

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

The Environmental Protection Agency warns that “forever toxic chemicals” are more dangerous than once thought

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

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

Others are looking for solutions in technology. Canadian researchers said this year that they have developed a filtering method to remove “the chemicals forever” from drinking water and possibly permanently destroy the compounds.

Timothy Bocco contributed to this report.

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