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    Nat Quinn




    Watch Dark Waters (2019) Full HD Movie | SolarMovie


    Rob Bilott, a corporate lawyer-turned-environmental crusader, doesn’t much care if he’s made enemies over the years. “I’ve been dealing with this for almost three decades,” he says. “I can’t really worry about if the people on the other side like me or not.”
    Bilott used to be on the other side. The Todd Haynes-directed movie Dark Waters, now playing in theaters, tells the story of how the lawyer, played by Mark Ruffalo, switched allegiances. As happened in real life, the movie depicts Ruffalo’s Bilott as a lawyer who defends large chemical companies before he is approached for help in 1998 by Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp), a West Virginia farmer whose land was contaminated by chemical giant DuPont. Inflamed by that injustice, and the complicity of local authorities, the lawyer risks his career as he embarks on a decades-long legal siege of one of America’s most powerful corporations. He works, at first, on Tennant’s behalf, then pursues a class action suit representing around 70,000 people living near a chemical plant that allegedly contaminated drinking water with PFOA, a toxic chemical used in the production of Teflon. In recent years, studies have correlated long-term exposure to PFOA with a number of illnesses, including some types of cancer.
    In 2017, Bilott won a $671 million settlement on behalf of more than 3,500 plaintiffs. Those people claimed they had contracted diseases, among them kidney cancer and testicular cancer, from chemicals DuPont allegedly knew may have been dangerous for decades, and allowed to contaminate their drinking water anyway.
    In Dark Waters, Haynes emphasizes the seemingly endless fight taken up by Bilott, as DuPont brings its considerable resources to bear to defend itself over the course of two decades. According to one analyst, the film’s potential to raise awareness about these issues could have a serious effect on some chemical companies’ bottom lines. But for the real Rob Bilott, the work of taking the industry to court is far from over. In October 2018, the lawyer filed a new lawsuit against several companies, including 3M, Arkema, and Chemours, a manufacturer spun off from DuPont in 2015. That ongoing case is seeking class action status, and was initially brought on behalf of Kevin Hardwick, a firefighting veteran of 40 years who used fire-suppression foams and firefighting equipment containing a class of chemicals known as PFAS, or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFOA is one type of PFAS chemical).
    Mark Ruffalo stars as Robt Bilott in Todd Haynes' 'Dark Waters.' (Mary Cybulsk—© 2019 FOCUS FEATURES LLC AND STORYTELLER DISTRIBUTION CO., LLC.)
    Mark Ruffalo stars as Robt Bilott in Todd Haynes’ ‘Dark Waters.’
    PFAS chemicals are used in products ranging from waterproof jackets to shaving cream, and they can leach into water supplies in areas where they are disposed of or used in fire suppression (in particular on military bases, where they have been used for years). According to Bilott’s complaint, studies currently suggest that PFAS is present in the blood of around 99% of Americans. The class of chemicals has broadly been linked to immune system disruption, while PFOA specifically has been found to be associated with cancers and other diseases. Bilott’s newest lawsuit, as with his prior cases, alleges that these companies knew for decades that PFAS chemicals, specifically PFOA, could be linked to serious health problems, and that they still assured the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other U.S. government regulators that PFAS exposures were harmless.
    “What we’re hearing once again from those companies that put those chemicals out there, knowing that they would get into the environment and into our blood, is that there’s insufficient evidence to show that they present risks to humans who are exposed,” explains Bilott. “These companies are going to sit back and say, we’re entitled to…use you as guinea pigs, yet those of you who are exposed are somehow the ones who are going to have to prove what these [chemicals] do to you.”
    Some scientists are particularly worried by the potential health effects of those less-studied PFAS chemicals. Dr. Philippe Grandjean, a professor of environmental health at Harvard, conducted a study that appeared to suggest that babies exposed to PFAS could suffer impaired immune-system development. “I fell off the chair,” says Dr. Grandjean. “When I looked at those data it was mind-boggling.”
    According to Bilott’s complaint, when his lawsuit’s defendants were asked by the EPA and other agencies to stop producing materials with PFOA, they switched to new “short chain” PFAS molecules. For scientists like Dr. Grandjean, there just isn’t enough information to know how short chain PFASs interact in the body, or if they’re safe. “Do we really want to keep exposing the population to potentially toxic chemicals and simply wait for the scientists to find statistically convincing evidence that they are toxic?” says Dr. Grandjean. “I would think that prevention would be a much better solution.”
    The logic of Bilott’s new suit is to force chemical companies to pay to find answers. Rather than seeking monetary damages for the millions of Americans with PFAS in their blood, the lawsuit demands the Chemours and the other chemical companies pay for an independent science panel to definitively establish the health effects of PFAS.
    In a statement, DuPont defended its safety and environmental record, and said that it does not produce PFAS chemicals, though it does use them. “We are leading the industry by supporting federal legislation and science-based regulatory efforts to address these chemicals,” the company wrote in an email. “We also have announced a series of commitments around our limited use of PFAS, including the [sic] eliminating the use of all PFAS-based firefighting foams from our facilities and granting royalty-free licenses to those seeking to use innovative PFAS remediation technologies.” DuPont also questioned the veracity of unspecified events depicted in the Dark Waters film. The other companies named in the suit — the 3M Company, Dyneon, the Chemours Company, Archroma, Arkema, AGC, Daikin Industries and Solvay Specialty Polymers — did not respond to requests for comment.
    In February, those defendants filed a joint motion to dismiss, which the court denied in September, allowing the case to proceed. The next legal step is for the court to decide whether the lawsuit will be permitted to go forward on behalf of a nationwide class. “We’re talking about chemicals that resulted in billions of dollars in profits over many, many years,” says Bilott. “That should be more than sufficient to help pay for whatever studies need to be done.”
    The case could take years to resolve, and then years after that for any potential science panel to publish definitive conclusions. (The panel portrayed in the movie took seven years to come to its determination.) Few would have begrudged Bilott a few years to rest on his laurels and enjoy the royalties from his new book, aptly titled “Exposure,” before embarking on what will inevitably be a long and arduous series of proceedings. But Bilott says he doesn’t have plans to ever stop fighting PFAS contamination.
    “If we can’t get where we need to go to protect people through our regulatory channels, through our legislative process, then unfortunately what we have left is our legal process,” says Bilott. “If that’s what it takes to get people the information they need and to protect people, we’re willing to do it.”




    ‘A worldwide public health threat’: Rob Bilott on his 20-year fight against forever chemicals

    Chemical companies hid their knowledge of the damage caused by PFAS for decades. With a new class-action lawsuit, Bilott intends to hold them accountable.

    Last month, an Ohio court certified a class action lawsuit brought by lawyer Rob Bilott that would cover 7 million people – and at some point possibly everyone living in the United States – who have been exposed to certain hazardous “forever chemicals” known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS.

    The chemicals have been linked to cancer, birth defects, kidney disease and a range of other human health problems. They are called “forever chemicals” because they do not naturally break down, persisting indefinitely in the environment.

    Two types of PFAS – PFOA and PFOS – have been found to be so harmful that they are being phased out of use. In addition to US multi-national company 3M, the class action lawsuit names 10 other companies that produce PFAS, which are used to make cookware, food packaging, water-resistant fabrics, firefighting foam and other products. The Biden administration last year pledged to undertake a massive PFAS mitigation strategy at a cost of more than $10bn.

    The Guardian spoke to Bilott about his lawsuit. The remarks have been edited for length and clarity.

    You have spent 20-some years now focused on exposing the danger of a class of chemicals we call PFAS, using litigation to try to hold companies involved in spreading PFAS accountable, and pressuring regulators to step up and do more to protect the public. You’ve written a book, Exposure, been featured in the New York Times as “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare,” and your legal battle has been made into a Hollywood movie called Dark Waters, as well as a documentary. Why are you so passionate about this issue?

    This is a worldwide public health threat. It’s very frustrating when you step back and you look at the science that has gotten even clearer over the years about how dangerous these chemicals are and how widespread their use is. The companies knew that if they put these chemicals out into the world they were going to get into our water, into our soil, into the wildlife, into us, yet they did it anyway. And now, after making billions of dollars for decades, those same companies are fighting any responsibility and trying to shift the cost of cleaning this mess up on to all of us. I’m trying to do what I can to make sure that not only is the health threat addressed but that the right people, the ones who actually caused the health problems, are held responsible – not all of us.

    Most people might associate your work with your battle against DuPont, a large manufacturer of PFAS chemicals used to make such things as Teflon coatings in cookware. But now you’re taking on many more manufacturers. What do you hope to achieve with this case?

    We first uncovered the existence of these chemicals in litigation against DuPont, which had been purchasing a chemical called PFOA from its manufacturer, 3M, and using it to make Teflon. We slowly started to realize that we’ve got not just PFOA but this bigger group of PFAS chemicals now being found in the environment, and in blood. But we were told that all the science that had been done was only on PFOA and that nobody had done similar research yet on these other chemicals. The companies said it was up to the exposed people, it was their burden, to prove that these other PFAS chemicals were causing harm.

    So in 2018 we filed the class action. The goal is not to get money damages but to have a federal court require that a new scientific panel be set up that would have the ability to look at this mix of PFAS chemicals in our blood and confirm the extent to which they are in fact causing harm. We want the companies to fund independent scientists to do whatever science might be needed to confirm these harms.

    Last October President Biden announced a plan to “prevent PFAS from being released into the air, drinking systems, and food supply… and expand cleanup efforts to remediate the impacts of these harmful pollutants.” That plan is expected to cost taxpayers billions of dollars. Biden has set aside $10bn just to deal with PFAS in drinking water. You recently sent a letter to the Biden administration addressing the plan, offering your assistance and support. But you also expressed a very firm opposition to taxpayers’ money being used for cleanup of PFAS pollution. Are you frustrated not just with the manufacturers but also with the EPA?

    It is frustrating that we’ve had several different PFAS “action plans” announced over the years dating back to 2009. Nothing happened with the first plan and then we had another plan announced in 2016. More promises were made and again nothing happened. And so we’ve got this new plan that has been announced. (But) we’re still seeing debate about to what extent should these materials be regulated, should they be declared hazardous or not.

    What I came to understand after dealing with this for so many decades is that we have a real systemic problem with the way our regulatory system is set up, the way in which science is generated, the way in which papers are published, peer reviewed, how that all interacts with our legal system, who has the burden of proof, who is being told they have to prove whether a chemical is safe versus whether it is harmful. All that creates a perfect storm of inaction. The only way people have been able to get clean water, to get compensated for the damage, the cancers that have been caused, is to go into our court system and try to fight this out in court for years. It is almost as though there is this intentional system of roadblocks baked into the system.

    So it sounds great, telling the public that we’re moving forward, we are going to actually start cleaning this stuff up, we’re going to allocate billions and billions of dollars to do that. But the money should not be coming from us, the exposed people. The taxpayers should not have to fund cleaning this up. We shouldn’t have the federal government essentially bail out these chemicals companies by allocating billions that the companies should be spending to clean this up.

    You have gained access to voluminous files of internal documents from the various companies you’ve sued over PFAS. Many of these documents show that the companies were aware decades ago that PFAS was harmful, and notably that it was spreading widely, accumulating in humans. Can you elaborate on that?

    It’s very eye opening when you start digging into the internal files of what these companies knew, what information they had access to going back decades, that they simply didn’t share with the rest of us. For example, one of the things we found in the internal files of the main manufacturer of the chemical PFOS, was that this company was well aware by the 1970s that PFOS was being found in the general US population’s blood and was being found at fairly significant levels. In fact by the 1990s, 3M’s own scientists had sat down to calculate what a “safe” blood level would be for PFOS.

    At the time, they knew that the level of PFOS being found in the general US population’s blood was around 30 parts per billion. And when this internal 3M scientist sat down to calculate a safe blood level, the number he calculated was 1.05 parts per billion. Some 30 times lower than the level that was actually being found. Why weren’t the rest of us told that? Why weren’t we warned? We only find out about that decades later.

    Documents like that make it clear the potential risk to human health was recognized decades ago. Yet here we are in the year 2022 still arguing about whether we should take steps to get rid of them – and who should be held responsible for all this.

    This is one of the reasons why I’m doing everything I can so people can see the facts for themselves and draw their own conclusions about who ought to be responsible for the threat that has been caused.

    This story is co-published with the New Lede, a journalism project of the Environmental Working Group.



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