The city of Baltimore, Maryland, has filed a lawsuit against more than twenty manufacturers of Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The city filed the lawsuit on November 4, 2022, the same day the city of Philadelphia also filed a similar claim. Through this lawsuit, Baltimore intends to hold firefighting foam and PFAS manufacturers accountable for knowingly contaminating the city’s waterways and water systems. Baltimore has now joined several other public entities that have filed lawsuits against companies for PFAS pollution.
PFAS in Consumer and Industrial Products
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been a staple in numerous consumer goods and industrial products for roughly seven decades. These chemicals are renowned for their resistance to heat, water, oil, and grease. Given these advantageous properties, manufacturers have incorporated PFAS into waterproof clothing, turnout gear, cookware, wrappers, paints, cleaning products, and food-processing equipment.
Also, PFAS are a widely known component of Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF), an effective tool in extinguishing petroleum-based fires. The military, firefighters, and airline industries have heavily depended on AFFF to combat fires. However, as we learn more about the insidious implications of PFAS, the law has begun to crack down on these chemicals.
PFAS Exposure Prevalent
PFAS are also known as “forever chemicals” because they are notoriously resistant to breaking down in the environment. Since PFAS do not dissipate, they can move through water and soil, eventually bioaccumulating in even fish and wildlife. Humans are susceptible to ingesting PFAS through contaminated water or food, breathing in the chemicals, or making physical contact. Thousands of individuals have filed lawsuits against firefighting foam manufacturers due to injuries related to PFAS exposure. Lawsuits allege companies understood the human health risks associated with PFAS but continued to manufacture AFFF with the toxic chemicals.
States Seek Justice Against PFAS Producers
Similar to individual lawsuits, multiple states have acted against fire fighting foam manufacturers for tainting city water supplies with PFAS. Back in 2018, Minnesota settled a lawsuit against the 3M Company over PFAS that polluted groundwater for $850 million. Additionally, Massachusetts joined a growing number of states against PFAS companies in May 2022 when it filed a lawsuit against thirteen firefighting foam manufacturers. The state has reportedly spent nearly $110 million to address PFAS contamination in the community. Recently, California Attorney General Rob Bonta followed in the footsteps of other states and filed a lawsuit against 3M, DuPont, and other manufacturers of PFAS in November of 2022. Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois are also on the list of states standing up to PFAS manufacturers.
Most states have made similar allegations that PFAS manufacturers knew or should have known about the toxic effects of PFAS on humans and the environment but produced them for profit nonetheless. States demand reimbursement to clean up PFAS and restore natural resources to safe conditions.
Baltimore Sues Manufacturers to Combat PFAS Contamination
Baltimore joined Philadelphia in filing a lawsuit against various PFAS manufacturers on November 4. According to a city Department of Public Works report in June of 2022, the city’s water supply contained PFAS levels at a concentration of 4.93 parts per trillion. This discovery prompted the EPA to caution Baltimore, and any city that finds any measurable levels of PFAS, to monitor levels closely and identify solutions to reduce PFAS contamination. Companies listed as defendants in Baltimore’s complaint include the 3M Company, DuPont, and twenty-two other major chemical companies.
Although Mayor Brandon M. Scott assured Baltimore residents that the DWP water provided for commercial and residential purposes meets regulatory requirements, the city hopes to safeguard future generations from harmful PFAS. At the moment, there is no federal limit on PFAS in water, but the EPA is working towards a PFAS National Drinking Water Regulation.