Maryland state departments have filed two lawsuits to hold multiple chemical manufacturers accountable for widespread and continuing contamination of Maryland’s waters and other natural resources, as well as harm to public health.
The lawsuits are filed on behalf of the State of Maryland, the Maryland Department of Environment, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the Maryland Department of Health. The suit alleges that corporations’ manufacture, marketing, and sale of toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) caused contamination of the state’s environment through multiple pathways. The suit challenges corporations including 3M, DuPont, and others.
One lawsuit addresses contamination caused by PFAS present in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), more commonly referred to as “firefighting foam,” which has been used for decades by the U.S. military, airports, industrial facilities, and local fire departments.
A second lawsuit addresses contamination caused by PFAS from non-AFFF sources, including but not limited to a myriad of consumer products, and which were introduced into Maryland’s environment through industrial facilities, the use and disposal of these products, landfills receiving PFAS-containing waste, and wastewater treatment facilities containing PFAS-contaminated waste streams.
Both lawsuits allege that defendants knew the dangers associated with their PFAS products many decades ago. Yet, despite that knowledge, they kept the risks secret and failed to alert the state or the public. Rather, they continued to pursue profits through the manufacturing, marketing, and sales of their PFAS products in Maryland.
“Protecting the health and well-being of Marylanders and the environment in which we live and raise our families is one of my top priorities,” said Attorney General Brown. “Access to safe drinking water, a clean environment, and the precious natural resources of Maryland will not be jeopardized by those who put profits above public health and safety. These corporations must pay to clean up the damage and be held accountable for the harms they have caused.”
PFAS pose a serious threat to human health, as they are not just present in drinking water, but can also be ingested, inhaled, and even absorbed through the skin. PFAS are estimated to be detectable in the blood stream of 99 percent of the U.S. population. Exposure to PFAS in humans and animals has been linked to several diseases, including kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and low birth weight, and may also impair the immune system, including the immune response to vaccines.
“The Maryland Department of the Environment continues to take aggressive action to identify PFAS risks and address the harm this has caused people across the state,” said Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Serena McIlwain. “We will be relentless in holding to account the companies that threatened public health with PFAS.”
Both lawsuits allege a number of claims, including defective design, failure to warn, public nuisance, trespass, and negligence. The two complaints seek to recover damages and costs related to the investigation, cleanup, restoration, and treatment of its natural resources from PFAS contamination.