Can You Get Compensation for Health Problems Caused by Forever Chemicals?

“Forever chemicals,” also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), are a family of synthetic substances. These compounds do not degrade quickly in the environment or the human body.

They have been linked to several health problems, including some forms of cancer. If you’ve been exposed to PFAS and are experiencing health issues, you might be wondering if you can seek compensation. The answer depends on several factors, but here’s a breakdown of what you need to know.

What are PFAS Lawsuits?

PFAS lawsuits are legal claims filed by individuals who allege that their exposure to PFAS caused them to develop health problems. According to TorHoerman Law, these lawsuits typically target manufacturers of PFAS chemicals, companies that contaminated drinking water with PFAS, or both.

The PFAS lawsuit has gained traction in recent years as more scientific evidence emerges linking PFAS exposure to health problems. Reuters notes that in 2023, a multi-district litigation (MDL) involving hundreds of PFAS lawsuits against various companies was consolidated in a federal court. This consolidation streamlines the pretrial process and could lead to faster settlements or trials for individual cases.

Establishing Causation

One of the biggest challenges in PFAS lawsuits is proving that exposure to PFAS caused a specific health condition. Since PFAS exposure is widespread, and many health problems have multiple contributing factors, establishing a direct link can be difficult. 

However, an increasing amount of scientific research is discovering links between PFAS exposure and a variety of health problems. As research continues to evolve, it may become easier to substantiate the health impacts of PFAS exposure in legal settings.

In a 2023 study published by the NIH, researchers found an association between PFAS and an increased risk of kidney cancer. A link between testicular cancer and long-term exposure to PFAS was also found. This study adds to the growing evidence base that PFAS exposure can have serious health consequences.

Types of Compensation Available

If you win a PFAS lawsuit, the type of compensation you may receive will vary depending on the specifics of your case. However, it may include:

  • Medical expenses: Payment for current and future medical expenses associated with your PFAS-related illness. For example, if you developed ulcerative colitis due to PFAS exposure, you could seek compensation for surgeries, medications, and doctor visits.
  • Lost wages: Reimbursement for income that you were unable to earn owing to sickness. If your illness forces you to take a leave of absence from work, you may be able to recover lost wages.
  • Pain and suffering: Damages for the physical and emotional pain caused by your condition. This could include compensation for chronic pain, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life.

While all of the above are compensatory damages, medical expenses and lost wages fall under actual compensatory damages. Pain and suffering are considered general compensatory damages. Investopedia notes that the plaintiff must demonstrate that the losses incurred have a specific monetary value to receive actual compensatory damages.

What to Do After Exposure to PFAS

If you’re concerned about PFAS exposure, there are steps you can take. You can get your blood tested for PFAS levels. Many environmental testing companies offer blood tests for PFAS. 

You can also call your local water authority and ask about PFAS testing in your drinking water. Additionally, staying informed about PFAS contamination in your area is important.

In April 2024, the EPA announced a new national drinking water standard for certain PFAS chemicals. This is a significant step toward addressing PFAS contamination, but it’s important to note that the standard is still being challenged. The EPA says the new standards will protect public health, but some argue they don’t go far enough.

Considering Legal Action

If you believe you have PFAS-related health problems and want to explore legal options, it’s crucial to consult with an attorney. They can help you evaluate your case and determine if you have a valid claim. An attorney can also assist you with the exact legal steps involved in launching a PFAS claim.

When taking legal action, it is critical to understand the prospective expenses. PFAS lawsuits can be complex and lengthy, and legal fees can be substantial. An attorney can help you weigh the costs and benefits of pursuing a lawsuit. They can also guide you through the legal process and link you with resources to aid you with your case.

WPR highlights that in many cases, companies opt to settle lawsuits rather than proceed to trial. This decision often involves considerations of public relations and a desire to avoid the protracted and expensive litigation process. For example, in 2021, Tyco Fire Products and several other manufacturers agreed to a $17.5 million settlement. Such settlements aim to resolve legal disputes efficiently while addressing community concerns over environmental and health impacts.


How long does it take for PFAS to break down? 

PFAS chemicals are highly persistent in the environment and in the human body, with some types taking thousands of years to break down. Their resistance to degradation is one reason why they accumulate in the environment and pose long-term risks to health.

Can PFAS cause death?

While PFAS exposure is associated with various health risks, direct death from PFAS exposure alone is rare. However, long-term exposure to high levels of PFAS may contribute to serious health conditions that can potentially lead to death. However, this is usually attributable to concomitant disorders rather than direct toxicity.

How do I know if I have PFAS in my body?

Testing for PFAS in the body involves specialized blood tests that detect levels of specific PFAS chemicals. Individuals with suspected exposure through contaminated water sources or industrial sites can consult healthcare providers for guidance on testing and interpreting results.

To summarize, PFAS exposure is an increasing concern because of its relation to a variety of health issues and environmental persistence. While legal options exist to seek compensation for damages, the challenges lie in establishing causation and navigating complex litigation. 

With ongoing scientific research and evolving regulations, the landscape of PFAS accountability is likely to change. Staying informed about personal exposure and developments in legal and regulatory efforts is crucial for those potentially affected by PFAS.

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