Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”) are a collection of over 7,000 manmade chemicals. The original PFAS compounds were invented in the 1940s, which sparked the invention of thousands of additional compounds later incorporated into countless consumer products even to this day. PFAS have unique physical properties, including resistance to degradation and heat and ability to repel oil and water. These properties are the reason PFAS are suspected to negatively impact human health, which has been widely publicized over recent months, despite the lack of scientific consensus on this issue.
Recently, the Massachusetts House of Representatives gave initial approval for proposed PFAS Bill H. 3661. Representative James Hawkins, a Democrat from Attleboro, proposed the bill after learning that three of his constituents, all firefighters, died from cancer. Representative Hawkins believes there is a connection between these firefighters’ diseases and their use of PFAS-containing firefighting protective clothing. Due to its high resistance to heat and fire, PFAS is a common chemical in firefighting personal protective equipment and firefighting foam. Occupational cancer is a common illness for firefighters, with PFAS being one of many carcinogens they are regularly exposed to in their line of work.
H. 3661 would require manufacturers or vendors selling PFAS-containing personal protective equipment to provide written notice of PFAS content to purchasers at the time of sale. Several dozen lawmakers cosponsored the bill and a second favorable vote in the House will allow for Senate consideration. Should this bill pass both the House and the Senate, it will add to the already numerous regulatory requirements for PFAS notice and cleanup that are being developed at both the federal and state levels. These regulations are being developed without firm scientific support or consensus regarding the alleged health concerns of PFAS exposure due to pressure from the public and environmental lobbyists who are asking for quick action.
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.