Saturday, December 28, 2019

Why a corporate lawyer is sounding the alarm about these common chemicals

Carey Gillam
Fri 27 Dec 2019 06.20 EST
Last modified on Sat 28 Dec 2019 11.16 EST


According to Bilott, we face a “unique health threat” from a class of industrial chemicals that most Americans have never heard of. These chemicals are widely used in everyday products such as non-stick cookware and stain-resistant fabrics, even though science shows they are linked to a range of deadly diseases, reproductive problems and other ailments. Powerful corporations are fighting to protect the use of these profitable chemical compounds, Bilott says, and US regulators are doing next to nothing to stop them.

It’s worth listening to what Bilott has to say. He has spent the last two decades advocating for people in West Virginia and Ohio whose water was contaminated with one of these toxins, a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.


Bilott achieved a class-action settlement with DuPont in 2004, part of which paid for a six-year health study. That study found links between PFOA and high cholesterol, kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, high blood pressure, pregnancy-induced hypertension and thyroid disease.


Bilott’s battle against DuPont, documented in a memoir, has been made into the feature film Dark Waters, released to theaters across the country this month. Starring Mark Ruffalo, Dark Waters tells of Bilott’s journey from a chemical industry defense attorney to a plaintiffs’ champion who uncovered evidence that DuPont knowingly hid the dangers of PFOA, even as its manufacturing facility near Parkersburg, West Virginia, was spilling the toxin across the landscape.

DuPont’s own lawyers and scientists raised concerns about the local community’s exposure to PFOA, Bilott told me. “Unfortunately what we saw was decisions made for business purposes to continue using the chemical, releasing it, and exposing people to it,” Bilott says.


Bilott says scientific research shows that PFAS chemicals accumulate in the human body and in the environment, creating a “ticking time bomb” in anyone exposed. He asserts that the companies “maliciously conspired” to conceal the dangers of PFAS while contaminating the bodies of people around the country.

As is the case with PFOA, studies link PFAS exposure to a range of human health problems, including a suppression of the human immune system, liver dysfunction, and adverse birth outcomes. The chemicals have been used since the 1940s in a range of products such as non-stick cookware, stain-repellents, food packaging, firefighting foam and other products.


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