BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts has sued more than a dozen companies involved in manufacturing or marketing so-called forever chemicals, alleging they knowingly polluted the environment and endangered public health, Attorney General Maura Healey said Wednesday.
The companies have known about the dangers of PFAS chemicals found in firefighting foam and consumer products for years, and have violated both state and state environmental laws, she said at a news conference.
“For decades, these manufacturers have known about the serious risks that highly toxic PFAS chemicals pose to public health, the environment, and our drinking water — but they have done nothing about it,” Healey said.
The chemicals have contaminated more than 126 public drinking water systems in 86 communities in Massachusetts, the state says. Those communities now face multimillion-dollar price tags to eliminate the chemicals, Healey said.
“We hold these manufacturers responsible for their deception,” she said.
In addition, the chemicals have contaminated lakes, streams, rivers and coastal areas including Cape Cod — areas critical to marine life, the lawsuit says.
The American Chemistry Council, an industry association to which many of the companies belong, declined to comment.
PFAS is the abbreviation for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances used in fire-fighting foams, non-stick frying pans, water-repellent fabrics, stain-resistant carpets and other products.
They are called “forever chemicals” because their chemical bonds are so strong that they do not break down or break down slowly in the environment and remain in a person’s bloodstream indefinitely.
They have been linked to serious health problems, including cancer and reduced birth weight.
Firefighters across Massachusetts have been experiencing an epidemic of occupational cancer, said Rich MacKinnon, president of the Professional Fire Fighters Association of Massachusetts, which represents about 12,000 firefighters.
“We see this as a major step in the fight against occupational cancer,” he said of the lawsuit.
The lawsuit filed in South Carolina federal court is likely to be consolidated with hundreds of similar lawsuits filed by attorneys general, municipalities and public water districts, Healey said.
The accused are 13 manufacturers and two companies. Healey claims to have shielded assets that should be available to fix the damage caused by PFAS contamination.
The Biden administration announced efforts to better regulate the chemicals in October.
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