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Illinois AG's latest lawsuit alleges manufactures knew PFAS products posed significant risks

Outside near the 3M facility in Cordova, IL.
Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco
Outside near the 3M facility in Cordova, IL.

This week, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul filed a lawsuit against 14 companies that sold products containing PFAS in Illinois. The suit alleges that in doing so they knowingly benefitted while contaminating the state’s environment.

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a family of over 5,000 man-made compounds deployed in a number of commercial goods, like fire-fighting foams and non-stick cookware. The compounds are commonly referred to as “forever chemicals,” as they are highly resistant to degradation. In Illinois, PFAS have turned up in freshwater sources, soils, wildlife and humans.

The lawsuit alleges that PFAS manufacturers actively promoted them as safe to manufacture and employ, even though they knew that the toxic family of chemicals carried significant health and environmental risks. According to a press release, Raoul says that as a result of this PFAS have contaminated water supplies and other parts of the environment across Illinois.

“The manufacturers of forever chemicals must be held accountable for the widespread contamination to our natural resources,” said Raoul “.This lawsuit is an important step toward accountability and protecting the surrounding environment and public health.”

The Illinois Attorney General’s office previously filed a lawsuit back in March of 2022 that alleged that 3M’s negligent operations around their Cordova, IL site resulted in PFAS contamination near and around the facility on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Several months later, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed an administrative order with 3M after an investigation found contamination from PFAS at the Illinois facility created "an imminent and substantial endangerment" of drinking water supplies.

3M is now set to foot the bill for two new drinking water wells in Camanche, Iowa – the town across the Mississippi River from the Cordova,IL site – in order to replace a number of wells contaminated by the “forever chemicals".

The 14 companies listed in the lawsuit are:

  • Dyneon, L.L.C.
  • Arkema, Inc.
  • AGC Chemicals Americas, Inc.
  • BASF Corporation
  • Clariant Corporation
  • Bayer Corporation
  • The Chemours Company
  • The Chemours Company FC, LLC
  • Corteva, Inc.
  • DowDuPont Inc.
  • DuPont De Nemours Inc.
  • E. I. Du Pont De Nemours and Company
  • Daikin America, Inc.
  • Solvay Specialty Polymers, USA, LLC

Sonya Lunder, a toxics policy advisor with the Sierra Club, says that this latest lawsuit is part of a broader national trend to hold the companies that make and profited from PFAS accountable for the pollution their products have caused. She adds that while Illinois may be near the leading edge on the PFAS front, there's still aways to go.
"It's really important to note that while certain types of PFAS have been phased out of commerce and are facing a massive cleanup for their pollution, there's still a lot of ongoing uses," said Lunder ". And so it's very important to shine the light on the unnecessary and harmful uses of PFAS in everyday products and really questioned whether or not those products could be made more safe by removing the PFAS components."

The lawsuit seeks to recover compensatory damages stemming from PFAS contamination and injury of Illinois’ natural resources and property. That includes costs associated with investigating, testing, monitoring and remediating PFAS contamination.

Juanpablo covers environmental, substandard housing and police-community relations. He’s been a bilingual facilitator at the StoryCorps office in Chicago. As a civic reporting fellow at City Bureau, a non-profit news organization that focuses on Chicago’s South Side, Ramirez-Franco produced print and audio stories about the Pilsen neighborhood. Before that, he was a production intern at the Third Coast International Audio Festival and the rural America editorial intern at In These Times magazine. Ramirez-Franco grew up in northern Illinois. He is a graduate of Knox College.