Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”) are a collection of over 7,000 man-made chemical compounds. PFAS are malleable into thousands of commercial applications due to their unique physical characteristics. Common and well-known uses of these compounds include takeout food containers, non-stick cookware, popcorn bags, tents, outdoor gear and clothing, water and stain-repellent clothing, carpet, and cosmetics. However, there are thousands of additional, less publicized, uses with very little data on the possible risk from consumer use of these products.
Aside from the above mentioned commonly used consumer products, PFAS are pervasive in a variety of other industries. Polychlorotrifluoroethylene (PCTFE) is used in gaskets, seals, and valves; Ethylene-tetrafluoro-ethylene (ETFE) is used in cable and wire covers and insulation, siding and roofing films, pipe lining, and wraps for cable ties; and Polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE) is used in tubing and hoses, wiring, lubricant, and gears. Little is known about possible routes of exposure to PFAS or risk from use of these products and even about the compounds themselves.
Much of the scientific data currently available is centered on long-chain PFAS varieties, including PFOA and PFOS. Even for these more widely studied compounds, there is not scientific consensus on the suspected health impacts of exposure. There is even less data available for short-chain PFAS. However, there are some environmental and public health and safety groups that believe the data will show hazards associated with these, as well. Some retailers have started to pull long-chain PFAS containing products from their shelves, likely sparked by the enormous presence PFAS has taken in written media over the past couple of years. How the evolution of issues such as friability and chemical release from a product due to work performed on the product remain to be seen with respect to the thousands of PFAS-containing products commercially available; however, litigation history has shown through the asbestos litigation that initially ignored products deemed “low risk” from a liability standpoint can quickly become the focus of a nationwide litigation. Companies should not wait for litigation to hit to assess their business practices and should instead perform a full risk analysis now with a forward-looking approach to risk potentials.
Public perception of PFAS compounds is largely driving regulators to implement and enforce regulations of PFAS before scientific consensus on safe levels of exposure and possible health impacts is reached. It is essential for manufacturers that incorporate any PFAS into their products to be aware of the ever-evolving regulations. Especially given that states are implementing regulations with varying levels of stringency, that are sometimes different from the regulations being developed at the federal level, there could be different requirements implemented on a state by state basis. Therefore, manufacturers should follow regulatory developments and know how they could be impacted.
CMBG3 Law is following judicial, legislative, and administrative developments relating to PFAS. More information about the services we can provide, including risk assessments, to ensure your business is ready for any intersection with these substances can be found on our PFAS Litigation page.
Our attorneys have been at the forefront of PFAS issues, including giving presentations as to the future waves of litigation stemming from PFAS issues. For more information, please contact any of our PFAS – Toxic Torts Team: Jessica Deyoe, Suzanne Englot, Alexandra Fraher,or John Gardella.