Emerging Trends in PFAS Litigation: What You Need to Know

Published On: June 11, 2024

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have historically been used across various industries such as aerospace, biotechnology, and textiles, for their water-resistant and stain-resistant properties. However, over the past two decades, PFAS have come under significant litigation and regulatory scrutiny due to their persistence in the environment and potential health risks. News reports, political advocacy, and media coverage have highlighted the widespread impacts of PFAS, prompting many companies to assess and reduce their use of these chemicals.

PFAS are composed of thousands of chemical compounds, with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) being the most well-known. These substances have been widely used in products such as apparel, cleaning products, and firefighting foam, leading to widespread exposure. Despite efforts to phase out these chemicals, regulatory bodies continue to investigate their use and the safety of their replacements, as most Americans have detectable levels of PFAS in their blood.

PFAS-related litigation has grown significantly since the early 2000s, primarily targeting PFOA and PFOS for their alleged health impacts and environmental persistence. Lawsuits have been brought by individuals, state attorneys general, and water authorities, primarily against manufacturers and processors of PFAS-containing materials. High-profile verdicts and settlements have fueled public attention and led to the expansion of litigation into various industries, including carpet production and roofing materials, with claims often involving false advertising and consumer protection violations.

Regulatory activity on PFAS has intensified, with the federal government and states implementing varying rules. The EPA has implemented new drinking water regulations and designations of certain PFAS as hazardous substances under federal laws, which would increase regulatory oversight and potential litigation risks. States like California and New York have adopted their own standards and reporting requirements, while new state laws aim to restrict or phase out PFAS use in consumer products. Internationally, the European Union has also proposed severe restrictions on PFAS.

In response to regulatory pressures and public scrutiny, companies are increasingly conducting internal audits and certifying their products as PFAS-free to align with new regulations and market demands. These measures aim to mitigate litigation risks and position products as safe and environmentally friendly, despite challenges related to trade secrets and confidentiality. Overall, the growing litigation, regulatory actions, and commercial attention suggest that companies, particularly manufacturers, should prepare for continued and heightened scrutiny of their use of PFAS.

August Mack can help navigate the complex litigation and regulatory landscape related to PFAS by providing comprehensive environmental consulting services. Our expertise includes assessing historical and current PFAS usage, conducting thorough audits, and assisting in the development of compliance strategies to meet federal and state regulations. August Mack also offers litigation support by identifying potential liabilities, evaluating environmental impacts, and developing remediation plans. With a focus on staying abreast of evolving regulations and legal precedents, August Mack helps businesses mitigate risks, ensure regulatory compliance, and maintain market competitiveness in an increasingly scrutinized environment.

For more information on this topic, sign up for our upcoming webinar in August.

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