IRA FLATOW: Let’s go to the phones to Meigs County, Ohio. You know, some people argue that they have some essential uses, some industrial and medical uses. Our number, 844-724-8255. IRA FLATOW: Robert Bilott is a partner of the law firm Taft, Stettinius, and Hollister in Cincinnati. Those cases were settled. By that point, we found out that the chemical had made its way into the water of 70,000 people on the Ohio and West Virginia side. That changed when a farmer named Wilbur Earl Tennant contacted him about a mysterious wave of animal deaths on his land—land neighboring DuPont’s landfill. “With multiple PFAS chemicals now contaminating the blood of people all over this country, 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,” Bilott said in a press release. Ira Flatow is the host and executive producer of Science Friday. Outside of the companies that made and used PFOA, most people had never heard of it. While many attorneys would have stopped with the first case that yielded a sizable paycheck, Bilott’s behemoth legal battle against toxic fluorinated chemicals has spanned decades. States across the country are holding public hearings on what to do about contamination with a class of persistent chemicals known as PFAS. That was in 1998. That took seven years. We don’t have ads, so we depend on our members — 35,000 and counting — to help us hold the powerful to account. listeners: , In the course of a lawsuit against the chemical corporation, Bilott had uncovered a trove of internal company documents, showing DuPont had been quietly monitoring the chemical’s health risks for decades, studying laboratory animals and their own workers. Someone who’s covered this for four years now? Not just on one farm in West Virginia, not even just in the public water of an entire community there, but it’s now in water all over the country, all over the planet, in the blood of virtually every living thing.”. How many covert wars, miscarriages of justice, and dystopian technologies would remain hidden if our reporters weren’t on the beat? You’re either a prosecutor or you’re a defense attorney. It was called C8. Robert Bilott was an unlikely adversary for DuPont. Unfortunately, they literally won’t go away. It should be the people that put it out there and put it into our blood. And we’ve put a home filtration system in for our own water. And we finally started getting internal documents. IRA FLATOW: And so what did DuPont documents say about the health risks of PFOA? They don’t break down. I was able to find some documents that were actually on the EPA’s own website that DuPont had submitted to the agency that showed that GenX caused health problems, including cancer, in lab animals. You may be exposed to them through food packaging, drinking water. But I think it’s between 4,000 and 7,000 actual chemicals, PFAS chemicals. CLAUDIA: Hi. He talked about it, as he said, for about two decades, he’s been on a crusade. Note that PFOA and PFOS are just two chemicals within the broader class of PFAS, which includes, hundreds or thousands of compounds Manufacturers have voluntarily, The DuPont spinoff Chemours, which inherited its Teflon line of products in 2015, has not responded to a request for comment. Yeah, one of the things we found was not only did we find out this chemical was in the landfill, we found out there were about 7,000 tons of sludge soaked with this chemical in the landfill. There are nonstick coatings and stain-resistant coatings, like Scotchgard, right? Bilott was admitted to the Bar in 1990 and began his law practice at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP in Cincinnati, Ohio For eight years he worked almost exclusively for large corporate clients and his specialty was defending chemical companies. Stay with us. Yet we are still dealing with a situation where the agency has not moved forward to regulate it yet. IRA FLATOW: Back in 1998, you were not in the business of suing chemical corporations, but defending them, right? It ended with a class action suit against chemical maker DuPont and a settlement of more than $600 million over personal injuries related to the chemical known as … In September, he testified before the House’s Oversight and Reform Committee. ROBERT BILOTT: Well, we ended up, after several years of litigation and finding even more documents and finding more disturbing information about the chemical, we were able to settle that case in 2004. He suspected something coming off DuPont’s landfill was poisoning the animals. So because of that and similar situations that occurred over the last several decades, there was some change made to that law just recently in 2016 to try to beef up their requirements. ROBERT BILOTT: Thanks much for having me. So we realized we might be the only ones who knew that, because this was in the internal files, but the regulators, the public, didn’t know. “We’re fortunate that we have a judicial system that allows people in that situation to go into court and get relief,” he said. Unfortunately– and I’ve gotten some of these documents– the amount that, you know, that is capped and you can’t make more than that is confidential almost always. Bilott, who previously secured a $670 million settlement from DuPont, is now suing DuPont, Chemours, and others on behalf of everyone in the United States who has PFAS in their blood. It was 400 and 200. I really wasn’t finding much in the published literature. So we’ve had this exponential growth in industrial chemicals. But if others are going to claim that some of these other related chemicals, that there isn’t quite as much information, then yeah, we need to have that information and have those studies done. And what we saw was this was a completely man-made, synthetic chemical, had not existed on the planet prior to World War II, been invented by the 3M Company right after the war. Although DuPont does not make these chemicals in question, we have announced a series of commitments around our limited use of PFAS—which includes eliminating the use of all PFOA/PFOS-based firefighting foams from our sites and granting royalty-free licenses to those seeking to use our PFAS water treatment resin technologies. ROBERT BILOTT: That’s right. So after that, those people were entitled to free medical monitoring under our settlement, and the people that had those diseases were able to bring individual claims against DuPont. You know, our first real, comprehensive federal law governing new chemicals coming out of the market, Toxic Substances Control Act, came out in 1976. IRA FLATOW: I want to bring on another guest. I first warned EPA 18 years ago, and we are still here. Nevertheless, 3M acted responsibly in connection with its manufacture and sale [of] PFAS and will vigorously defend its record of environmental stewardship.”. IRA FLATOW: Do we know what levels it’s dangerous, or? So that started me on a whole other journey. His green thumb has revived many an office plant at death’s door. That changed when a, farmer named Wilbur Earl Tennant contacted him. And as we’ve said, it’s not– you know, when it started, I thought of this as an Ohio, West Virginia issue. “This lawsuit could provide a mechanism for addressing and resolving those concerns through a truly comprehensive and independent, science-based process paid for by those that actually created the problem — and not by the American taxpayers.”, Sharon Lerner[email protected]theintercept.com@fastlerner.
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