Approximately 397 military installations throughout the United States have contaminated drinking water that threatens the health and safety of service members, their families, and civilians working on those installations. The contamination is from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”). PFAS are manmade chemicals that do not break down over time and survive in the environment literally forever. Hence, the nickname given them – “forever chemicals.” The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has confirmed that exposure to PFAS may result in adverse health effects.
WHAT ARE THE FOREVER CHEMICALS IN DRINKING WATER?
The common link between military installations and “forever chemicals” is that most of the installations used Aqueous Film Forming Foam (“AFFF”) as a fire suppressant on fuel fires. AFFF is often used in shipboard and shore facility fire suppression as well as airfield fire suppression. This means that any military installation that supported naval vessel and/or aircraft operations used AFFF and that use contaminated the drinking water on that installation.
WHO IS AFFECTED BY THESE PFAS CHEMICALS?
Each service – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard – has installations that are confirmed to have drinking water on or near these installations that is contaminated with PFAS. The United States government performed the testing that confirms contamination of the drinking water at or near these military installations.
Before being overly critical of the United States government, it is important to know that our government used AFFF without the knowledge of how harmful the contents of AFFF (PFAS) was to human health and our environment. For many decades, the manufacturers of PFAS suppressed information and data that clearly indicated the harmfulness of these “forever chemicals.” Again, as early as the 1970s, manufacturers knew that PFAS were harmful to human health and the environment and failed to inform the United States government or anyone else. These manufacturers engaged in a conspiracy to suppress this information. It was not a mistake or some form of administrative oversight.
Today, scientists and medical experts studying PFAS have linked them to serious health harms in humans. Current peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown that human exposure to certain levels of PFAS may lead to:
- Reproductive effects such as decreased fertility or increased high blood pressure in pregnant women.
- Developmental effects or delays in children, include low birth weight, accelerated puberty, bone variations, or behavioral changes.
- Increased risk of some cancers, including prostate, kidney, and testicular cancers.
- Reduced ability of the body’s immune system to fight infections, including reduced vaccine response.
- Interference with the body’s natural hormones.
- Increased cholesterol levels and/or risk of obesity.
PFAS MANUFACTURER DECEPTION
Because of the PFAS manufacturers’ deception, not until recently, June 2022, has EPA taken action to update the lifetime health advisory levels of PFAS. EPA’s lifetime health advisory levels offer protection for people from adverse health effects resulting from exposure throughout their lives to this individual PFAS in drinking water. Unfortunately, EPA will not require that drinking water be treated to these new, safer levels until 2024. This means that it is too late for those who lived and worked on the military installations listed on our website. Each of these service members, their family members, and civilian workers have already consumed these “forever chemicals” at a volume to cause permanent harm.
WHAT IS THE REMEDY FOR FOREVER CHEMICALS IN WATER?
The only solution for those who have been harmed is to seek justice against these PFAS manufacturers. This justice comes from taking action and filing a lawsuit against these manufacturers. Currently, there is what is known as multi-district litigation (a “MDL”) filed in federal court in South Carolina for PFAS water contamination and the injuries caused by PFAS from AFFF. Of the thousands of cases on file in this MDL, the plaintiffs include individuals, public entities, and private entities. More than 40 Defendants have been sued in this litigation to ensure that all PFAS manufacturers will be held accountable for the harm they caused. Our service members, their families, and the civilian workers that support our military deserve the best representation and a shot at justice. At Singleton Schreiber, we are here to serve those that have served for us.