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Firefighter Wants Study—Not Money—in Fluorinated Chemicals Suit

Oct. 9, 2018, 5:10 PM

An Ohio firefighter suing DuPont, 3M, and other companies over exposure to contamination from fluorinated chemicals doesn’t want money—he wants those companies instead to study the chemicals’ risks.

But DuPont is rejecting that idea. Instead, it wants to focus on what was known in decades past when it produced the chemicals.

The heart of the rare suit is an allegation that plaintiffs face an information hurdle when it comes to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Kevin Hardwick, a Cincinnati-area firefighter for 40 years, said in his lawsuit that manufacturers claim not enough research exists to prove that PFAS from their products will harm people. But research should be doable with manufacturers’ data and $5 million from 10 different chemical makers, Hardwick argued.

The complaint, filed Oct. 4 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, seeks class status for everyone in the U.S. with PFAS in their blood. Hardwick claims he was exposed to PFAS through firefighting foams and gear coated with perfluorinated flame retardants.

Besides 3M, the suit seeks funds to establish a independent panel of scientists to study the issue from nine other companies Those companies include E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., Chemours Co., Archroma Management LLC, Arkema Inc., AGC Inc., Daikin Industries, Ltd., Solvay Specialty Polymers USA LLC, and some of these companies’ subsidiaries.

‘Without Merit’

DuPont spokesperson Dan Turner told Bloomberg Environment in an Oct. 9 email that the accusations in the complaint are “without merit.”

“DuPont acted responsibly based on the health and environmental information that was available to the industry and regulators about PFOA at the time of its usage,” Turner said. “We will vigorously defend our record of safety, health and environmental stewardship.”

Robert Bilott, Hardwick’s attorney and a partner at the Cincinnati office of Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, said the suit follows up on research funded by other litigation.

In an Oct. 4 statement, Bilott said the “C8 Science Panel” formed out of litigation in West Virginia and Ohio confirmed “probable links” with testicular and kidney cancer, as well as other diseases.

He added that it “should be possible to build upon and expand the C8 Science Panel model to encompass a comprehensive, nationwide investigation of the impact of multiple PFAS chemicals.

“We are aware of the lawsuit, but have not yet had an opportunity to review the allegations,” 3M spokesperson Fanna Haile-Selassie told Bloomberg Environment in an Oct. 9 email. “Nevertheless, 3M acted responsibly in connection with its manufacture and sale of PFAS and will vigorously defend its record of environmental stewardship.”

The case is: Hardwick v. 3M Co., S.D. Ohio, No. 2:18-cv-1185, complaint filed 10/4/18.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ebert in Columbus, Ohio at aebert@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bloombergenvironment.com

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