Dana Nessen, Michigan’s Attorney General, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against a list of major chemical manufacturers, including DuPont and 3M. The suit alleges that these companies have knowingly hidden the toxic and long-lasting effects of a category of chemicals known as “PFAS” from the public. PFAS are believed to cause illness in both humans and animals such as infertility, liver damage, and various forms of cancer. These “forever chemicals” are nearly impossible to destroy and have recently been found in drinking water throughout Michigan.
The complaint details the companies’ negligence and the extensive damage that PFAS chemicals have done to state property and natural resources. Nessen believes the damage can be reversed in some cases but at a steep cost, and the price ought to be paid by the companies who have caused the problem.
DuPont was quick to respond, claiming the amount of PFAS they use is insignificant on a global scale and that they've never sold fire retardants (one of the main products that use PFAS). Denise Rutherford, a spokesperson for 3M, has said that their chemicals are not proven to have adverse effects on humans. But according to the lawsuit, 3M has scientific evidence that contradicts Rutherford’s claim.
This is the first step taken by the state of Michigan in the PFAS controversy, but DuPont and 3M have been under legal fire for years. DuPont has faced thousands of personal injury and wrongful death suits in just the last decade and has been known to purchase chemical supplies from 3M, namely PFAS and a similar chemical, PFAO.
3M sold the potentially toxic products from the 1950s until 2002. In 2018 the company was forced to pay an $850 million settlement for allegedly releasing another toxic chemical, PCFs, into Minnesota waterways. Michigan now joins Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, and New Jersey in the legal battle against PFAS manufacturers.
Of the other 15 companies being sued, Chemours Co. and AGC Chemicals Americas Inc. have denied the allegations. The rest of the defendants are yet to provide a comment.
DiCello Levitt Gutzler LLC and Keating Muething & Klekamp represent Michigan as outside counsel. Attorneys from the Michigan Attorney General’s Office and Fields PLLC will also represent Michigan.
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