Will PFAS Become the Next Asbestos?
Roux Associates has been monitoring regulatory developments and public perception regarding emerging contaminants. One group of chemicals that could have a significant effect on business is perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS).
Lately, state and federal agencies are taking aggressive measures to regulate these substances. Recently, New Jersey announced it will promulgate a drinking water maximum contaminant level (MCL) for perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) of 0.013 parts per billion (ppb)—the equivalent of about a tablespoonful of PFNA in 1,000 swimming pools. Currently, these substances are not regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act; however, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is undertaking a study of water supplies across the nation to assess the prevalence of PFAS in advance of developing federal MCLs.
These substances do not break down and are immensely persistent. Toxicological studies estimate that they reside in the human body for as long as four years. The EPA has identified human exposure from direct contact with tainted water and soil, and ingestion of food. A recent study identified fluorine in fast food wrappers and suggests non-stick food containers are likely contributing to PFAS in humans.
What are the implications?
- Lawsuits for chronic exposure of the workforce and/or the public.
- Environmental impairment of drinking water and surface water dating back before the pollution exclusion, and extending into the present.
How large is the potential universe of claimants and long-tail claims?
- Product liability claims (e.g., tainted foodstuffs).
- Business loss claims (product recalls).
In 2016, residents near a naval air station sued 3M and a host of other companies for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) contamination of their water supply, which is a PFAS chemical used in fire-fighting foams at the naval base. Similarly, in Hoosick Falls, New York, a man is suing Saint-Gobain and Honeywell for damages from drinking tainted water.
Roux Associates is on the forefront of the PFAS issue and risk management. We can help you to develop a strategy to address and quantify this liability. For more information, please click on the button below.