LANSING —On Tuesday, January 14, the state filed a lawsuit against 17 defendants in Washtenaw County Circuit Court, including 3M and DuPont, for the damages and injury caused by contamination from toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.
The substances, known by the acronym PFAS, are often referred to as “forever chemicals.”
The lawsuit is the first legal action taken by the state against PFAS manufacturers.
In it, the state alleges that the 17 defendants deliberately concealed the dangers of PFAS and withheld scientific evidence and intentionally, knowingly and recklessly sold, distributed and released the chemicals among other allegations.
The defendant companies are Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co. (AKA 3M); DuPont, including its historic corporate self/identity/entity, as well as its post-merger-and-spinoff self – DuPont de Nemours Inc., (AKA “New DuPont”); The Chemours Co., a spinoff of DuPont, and its subsidiary (The Chemours Co. FC LLX); Corteva Inc., another DuPont spinoff which was part of Defendant Dow DuPont; Dyneon LLC; Archroma entities; Arkema entities; AGC Chemicals Americas Inc.; Daikin Industries entities; Solvay Specialty Polymers, USA LLC and Asahi Kasei Plastics North America Inc.
“It is our responsibility to protect our residents and our state’s natural resources and property by preventing and abating hazards to public health, safety, welfare and the environment – and by placing the responsibility for this massive undertaking with those responsible for creating the problem,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said.
Governor Whitmer and Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) Director Leslie Clark joined Nessel to announce the litigation.
“Since taking office, I’ve been deliberate and focused on protecting our Great Lakes and cleaning up our drinking water,” Whitmer said.
“Michigan has been established as a national leader in identifying, monitoring and addressing contamination caused by PFAS. As such, we must continue to protect communities all across our state from harmful PFAS chemicals by holding polluters accountable. Future generations of Michiganders are counting on us to get to work today.”
The complaint also states that the defendants knew that PFAS persist in the environment and do not degrade, that they would accumulate and build up in animals and humans exposed to them and that they are potential or confirmed carcinogens.
It also says the defendants hid information about PFAS toxicity from the state and its residents by neglecting to tell people what was in the products while suppressing scientific evidence.
Exposure to PFAS is correlated with several harmful and serious health effects, including but not limited to decreased fertility, pregnancy induced hypertension and/or preeclampsia, liver damage, thyroid disease, problems with cholesterol levels, immune system problems and increased likelihood of cancer, especially kidney and testicular cancers, a press release said.
“We are committed to ensuring that the companies responsible for unleashing PFAS on our state will stand up to their legal obligations and responsibilities,” Nessel said. “Their reprehensible conduct demands Governor Whitmer and I take every legal and regulatory action necessary to protect the people and natural resources of our state.”
“The most troubling thing I have learned through all of this is that the manufacturing companies knew about the harms of PFAS — and even tracked it in the blood of employees — while the EPA has completely abandoned its responsibility to act swiftly and comprehensively to respond,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn). “This is wrong and they must be held accountable.”
The PFAS chemical is believed to be one of the most damaging in the state since the PBB (polybrominated biphenyl) crisis of the 1970s, and it may affect the drinking water of thousands. Some components may be removed through at-home water filtration systems.
The full complaint can be read here.