Perpetual chemicals in drinking water: US chemical companies announce settlement payment

Perpetual chemicals in drinking water
US chemical companies announce settlement payment

US drinking water sources are contaminated with so-called “forever chemicals” PFAS, which can cause cancer. Large chemical companies are responsible. Three of them now agree to pay billions to avert claims for damages.

Because of the contamination of drinking water sources with so-called “eternal chemicals”, three large US chemical companies have agreed to pay a total of almost 1.2 billion US dollars (1.1 billion euros). In a joint statement, Chemours, DuPont and Corteva said they had reached “an agreement in principle” to resolve “all claims related to PFAS-contaminated drinking water.” A large part of the US population is supplied with drinking water from the affected springs.

Of the $1.2 billion earmarked for the settlement fund, Chemours plans to take the largest share, $592 million. DuPont will pay $400 million and Corteva $193 million.

The group of per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS) is commonly referred to as “forever chemicals” because these substances decompose extremely slowly. They are used in the manufacture of numerous industrial and consumer products, including carpets, waterproof clothing, cosmetics, shampoos, pizza boxes and toilet paper. However, the substances are harmful to health and can cause cancer and other health problems.

Substances should be banned

Industry giant 3M has also settled a total of $10 billion in legal disputes with several US cities over PFAS-contaminated drinking water, financial news agency Bloomberg reported. However, when asked, 3M did not comment on Friday. The agreement still has to be confirmed by a judge.

The US company 3M had already paid 571 million euros to the Belgian region of Flanders in 2022 after chemicals leaked from a factory in Zwijndrecht near Antwerp. The Dutch government announced last week that it would seek compensation from 3M for damage caused by chemicals in the Westerschelde. The estuary connects Antwerp with the North Sea. 3M has already announced that it will phase out PFAS production by the end of 2025.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) called for new standards this year to limit the occurrence of harmful substances in drinking water. Utilities are to monitor six of the hazardous chemicals and reduce their levels in the water. The new standards could prevent thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of illnesses from PFAS, said EPA chief Michael Regan.

Germany, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden submitted an application to the EU chemicals agency Echa in January to ban the eternal chemicals. The EU Commission would have to work out a regulation, which would then propose it to the member states. The ban is therefore not expected to be implemented until 2026 at the earliest.

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