Many residents of Texas and elsewhere are concerned about hazardous substances that are in our drinking water, the air we breathe, and the food we consume. The problem is, watchdog agencies must always play catch-up in enforcing regulations as chemical plants, waste management companies and industrial facilities continue to discharge toxic chemicals.
Fluorinated chemicals, called PFAS, are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been in use since the 1940’s. Also called “forever chemicals”, companies were aware not only of the dangers of these substances, but also that they were contaminating the water supplies of many communities.
Many of these chemicals break down very slowly and can become more concentrated in the human body and the environment over time. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), most people in the United States have been exposed to PFAS. Their effects vary according to concentration, age and other factors.
What harm do PFAS chemicals do, and are they regulated?
PFAS are everywhere in the environment, in the groundwater, soil, food sources as well as in household products. They can be found in:
- most water systems and private water wells.
- landfills and hazardous waste sites, and soil and water near these sites.
- Biosolids such as fertilizer that has come from wastewater treatment plants.
- Dairy products and fish, as well as food packaging such as fast food containers, microwave popcorn and candy wrappers.
- Some shampoos, dental floss and cosmetics.
Exposure to PFAS can cause many serious conditions, including:
- Higher risk of prostate, kidney and testicular cancer.
- Decreased fertility, high blood pressure and increased cholesterol levels.
- Developmental delays in children.
- Reduced vaccine response and weaker immune system response
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has introduced a timeline for PFAS regulation, with the goal of listing specific PFAS as hazardous chemicals. The PFAS Strategic Roadmap has plans to designate two of the most studied PFAS, PFOA and PFOS, as hazardous substances under current law by the summer of 2023.
Moving forward with a toxic tort claim
Residents of Houston and surrounding areas who have suffered harm from a toxic substance can pursue compensation through a toxic tort claim. A skilled legal team will need to prove that negligence on the part of the defendant caused harm to the injured party. Stronger regulations in place on emerging hazardous substances will likely trigger new liabilities.