For decades, corporate ghouls were aware of forever chemicals, as revealed by industry documents.
For decades, corporate ghouls were aware of forever chemicals, as revealed by industry documents. These chemicals, also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), are a group of man-made chemicals that are used in a wide range of industrial and consumer products. They are called “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment and can persist for decades, if not centuries.
The use of PFAS has been linked to a range of health problems, including cancer, thyroid disease, and immune system dysfunction. Despite this, the chemical industry has continued to produce and use these chemicals, and has even fought against efforts to regulate them.
Industry documents obtained by investigative journalists and environmental groups have revealed that corporate executives were aware of the risks associated with PFAS as early as the 1960s. These documents show that companies like DuPont and 3M knew that PFAS were toxic and could accumulate in the environment and in human bodies.
Despite this knowledge, these companies continued to produce and use PFAS, and even worked to conceal the risks associated with these chemicals. In some cases, they actively lobbied against efforts to regulate or ban PFAS.
One of the most notorious examples of this is the case of DuPont and its use of PFAS in the production of Teflon. In the 1990s, a group of residents near a DuPont plant in West Virginia began to notice that their water was contaminated with PFAS. They sued DuPont, and in 2005, the company settled the case for $70 million.
The settlement revealed that DuPont had known about the risks associated with PFAS for decades, but had continued to use the chemicals anyway. The company had even conducted secret studies on the health effects of PFAS, but had not shared the results with the public or with regulators.
Since then, there have been numerous other cases of PFAS contamination and lawsuits against companies that produce or use these chemicals. In 2019, 3M settled a lawsuit with the state of Minnesota for $850 million over its role in contaminating water with PFAS.
Despite these settlements, the use of PFAS continues to be widespread. These chemicals are used in everything from non-stick cookware to firefighting foam, and they can be found in the blood of nearly all Americans.
Efforts to regulate or ban PFAS have been slow-moving, in part because of the political power of the chemical industry. However, there have been some recent developments that suggest that change may be on the horizon.
In 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it would begin the process of regulating PFAS under the Safe Drinking Water Act. This was a significant step, as it marked the first time that the EPA had taken action on PFAS in over a decade.
Since then, several states have also taken action to regulate or ban PFAS. In 2020, California became the first state to ban PFAS in firefighting foam, and several other states have followed suit.
While these developments are encouraging, there is still a long way to go in the fight against forever chemicals. The legacy of corporate greed and negligence has left a toxic legacy that will take decades, if not centuries, to clean up. However, with continued public pressure and political will, it is possible to create a safer and healthier future for all.