The judge presiding over the federal PFAS multidistrict litigation recently denied the 3M Company immunity from liability for damages caused by the toxic chemicals as a government contractor. 3M Co. attempted to convince the judge that it should not be held responsible for PFAS contamination since it produced the materials for the government. However, Judge Richard M. Gergel stated that this decision rests with the jury.
PFAS Present Deadly Risk to Environment and Humans
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are human-made chemicals that manufacturers use in firefighting foams and a variety of manufactured goods. The military, airline industries, and firefighters use firefighting foam that contains these chemicals to fight fires. PFAS consist of heat-resistant chemicals like fluorine and carbon, which makes them extremely effective in extinguishing petroleum-based fires. In fact, these industries consider Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) as a more effective fire suppressant than water. Additionally, manufacturers incorporate PFAS into fast food packaging, waterproof clothing, paints, cosmetics, and cleaning products. While PFAS successfully combat fires and account for several manufactured products, these chemicals take a toll on our health and the environment.
Environmental agencies refer to PFAS as “forever chemicals” since these substances linger in our environment and take a very long time to break down. Also, PFAS find their way into our food and water supply, so these toxins bioaccumulate in our bodies over time. Furthermore, many world health organizations have categorized PFAS as possible human carcinogens. Scientific studies indicate that exposure to PFAS may result in numerous forms of cancer, including cancer of the kidney, pancreatic, prostate, leukemia, and lymphoma, among others.
Judge Rules 3M Company Not Exempt From PFAS Lawsuits
Judge Richard M. Gergel, who oversees MDL-2873 Re: Aqueous Film-Forming Foams Products Liability Litigation, struck down 3M’s motion to excuse the company from liability. 3M and several other companies, such as Chemguard Inc., Kidde-Fenwal Inc., National Foam Inc., and Dynax Corp., are facing lawsuits for manufacturing firefighting foam with the hazardous PFAS. Currently, over 3,000 cases are pending in federal multidistrict litigation, with other lawsuits filed in state courts.
3M claimed that since the Navy contracted the company to produce the firefighting foam according to government specifications, it is protected from litigation as a government contractor. Yet, Judge Gergel laid out concerns regarding whether the government knew about the risks of PFAS. Even though 3M conducted over a thousand internal studies on the toxicity of PFAS in its firefighting foam, it did not inform the military of these results. Records show that 3M failed to openly disclose the presence of PFAS and its dangers to the public or the government.
Also, 3M Company is mired in controversy and litigation surrounding its defective 3M earplugs. In the newest development surrounding the 3M dual-ended combat earplugs, the company attempted to weasel its way out of hundreds of thousands of lawsuits that allege the earplugs resulted in hearing loss and damage by declaring its subsidiary bankrupt. However, a judge stated that the company’s subsidiary’s bankruptcy does not affect the lawsuits against 3M.