BALTIMORE, MD (May 30, 2023) – Maryland Attorney General Anthony G. Brown has filed two lawsuits for the State of Maryland, the Maryland Department of Environment, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the Maryland Department of Health. The lawsuits aim to hold multiple chemical manufacturers accountable for the widespread and continuing contamination of Maryland’s natural resources and the harm caused to public health. The defendants named in the lawsuits include 3M, DuPont, and other corporations known for manufacturing, marketing, and selling toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals.”

These lawsuits assert that the defendants’ PFAS products have caused contamination of Maryland’s environment through various pathways, endangering the health of its residents. One lawsuit addresses the contamination caused by PFAS present in firefighting foam, known as aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF). AFFF has been used by the U.S. military, airports, industrial facilities, and local fire departments for decades. The second lawsuit focuses on contamination caused by PFAS from non-AFFF sources, such as consumer products, and their introduction into Maryland’s environment through industrial facilities, product use, and disposal, landfills receiving PFAS-containing waste, and wastewater treatment facilities containing PFAS-contaminated waste streams.

The lawsuits claim that the defendants knew the dangers of their PFAS products many decades ago. However, instead of disclosing these risks to the state and the public, they kept this information secret while pursuing profits through the manufacturing, marketing, and selling of their PFAS products in Maryland.

Attorney General Brown emphasized the importance of protecting the health and well-being of Marylanders and the state’s environment. He stated, “Access to safe drinking water, a clean environment, and the precious natural resources of Maryland will not be jeopardized by those who put profits above public health and safety. These corporations must pay to clean up the damage and be held accountable for the harm they caused.”

Exposure to PFAS has been linked to several diseases in humans and animals, including kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and low birth weight. PFAS can also impair the immune system and its response to vaccines. The chemicals pose a significant threat as they can be ingested, inhaled, and absorbed through the skin. It is estimated that PFAS is detectable in the bloodstream of 99 percent of the U.S. population.

Governor Wes Moore expressed his support for the state’s decision to hold those who pose a risk to Marylanders’ well-being accountable. He stated, “By filing these claims, Maryland is making clear that we value health, safety, and preserving our state’s precious natural resources for future generations over corporate profits.”

Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Serena McIlwain affirmed the department’s commitment to taking aggressive action against PFAS risks and addressing the harm caused by the chemicals. She stated, “We will relentlessly hold accountable the companies that threatened public health with PFAS.”

PFAS are a group of over 9,000 human-made chemical compounds that contain fluorine and carbon atoms. They have been used since the 1940s in industrial settings and the production of household and commercial products due to their heat resistance, stain resistance, and water and oil-repellent properties. The most extensively studied PFAS chemicals, PFOS and PFOA, are toxic at very low concentrations. These chemicals can easily migrate through soil and groundwater, including into surface water, posing a threat to the environment. PFAS are often called “forever chemicals” because they do not readily biodegrade or chemically degrade, remaining in the environment for hundreds or even thousands of years.

Both lawsuits include claims of defective design, failure to warn, public nuisance, trespass, and negligence. The State seeks to recover damages and costs associated with the investigation, cleanup, restoration, and treatment of natural resources affected by PFAS contamination.

The Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) has been actively working to understand and mitigate the risks associated with PFAS contamination. The department has been identifying additional sources of PFAS release at Department of Defense locations, wastewater treatment plants, industrial sites, and landfills. Further investigation and remediation efforts are required to determine the full extent of PFAS contamination in the state.

The lawsuits filed by Maryland against chemical manufacturers mark a significant step in addressing the widespread issue of PFAS contamination. Maryland joins several other states that have taken legal action against companies responsible for PFAS pollution. These lawsuits serve as a means to hold corporations accountable for their actions and to seek compensation for the damage caused to public health and the environment.

PFAS contamination has become a growing concern across the United States. These chemicals’ persistence and potential health risks have raised alarm among communities and policymakers. Efforts to regulate and phase out PFAS use are underway at the federal level. Still, many states are taking independent action to address the issue without comprehensive federal regulations.

Maryland’s decision to file these lawsuits reflects the state’s commitment to safeguarding the well-being of its residents and protecting its natural resources. By seeking accountability and financial restitution from chemical manufacturers, Maryland aims to ensure that the costs of cleanup and remediation are borne by those responsible for the contamination.

Moving forward, the lawsuits will undergo the legal process, and the outcomes will have significant implications for future actions against PFAS manufacturers. The cases will shed light on the extent of the chemical industry’s knowledge regarding the risks associated with PFAS products and their responsibility to inform the public and authorities.

Filing these lawsuits also underscores the urgency to address PFAS contamination at a broader scale. Efforts to regulate and monitor PFAS, as well as to develop effective remediation strategies, need to be prioritized to protect public health and the environment. Continued research and collaboration between government agencies, scientific institutions, and advocacy groups will be crucial in tackling this complex issue.

Maryland’s legal action against chemical manufacturers sets a precedent for other states grappling with PFAS contamination. It sends a clear message that the health and safety of residents and the preservation of natural resources must take precedence over corporate profits. As the lawsuits progress, they can potentially bring about significant changes in how PFAS chemicals are regulated, used, and held accountable for their impact on communities and the environment.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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