Albuquerque, NM – On June 1st, Attorney General Raúl Torrez filed a lawsuit against major manufacturers around the country, such as 3M and DuPont, for contaminating our state’s natural resources, property, residents and consumers with the careless use of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
PFAS consist of various chemicals that are found in hundreds of products that individuals use every day, like non-stick pans, to aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), which is used for firefighting training and emergency response. PFAS are mostly known for their resistance to oil,
heat, water and other elements.
The lawsuit lists 21 defendants that, for decades, have spread PFAS throughout New Mexico despite their knowledge of PFAS being dangerous toxins that are extremely difficult to remediate. Some of the contaminated areas throughout the state include the Lea County Airport, Santa Fe Fire Department, and Holloman and Cannon Air Force bases. They have also been found in the Rio Grande and the shallow groundwater alongside the river in Albuquerque.
“New Mexicans need to know that there is serious harm being done to our environment and human health by the distribution of PFAS, a series of chemicals that you cannot see or smell, and that I will take on large manufacturers who use our resources to gain millions of dollars without taking proper long-term steps to remediate the effects their products will have on our communities,” said AG Torrez. “This lawsuit will change the way large companies do business in our state–they need to know that we are watching and will fight to protect New Mexicans and our natural resources.”
PFAS have contaminated our air, soil, surface and groundwater, drinking water, wetlands and other natural resources. Once PFAS are in our environment they quickly spread and easily dissolve into our water systems, making them difficult and expensive to remove. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the spread of PFAS in the environment has led to decreased fertility, preeclampsia, risk of certain cancers, reduced ability for the human body to fight infections, increased thyroid disease and other possible fatal medical conditions.
“PFAS manufacturers profited at the expense of the health of New Mexicans for decades,” said New Mexico Environment Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “This lawsuit aims to stop the ongoing damage to the people, environment, and economy of our state while holding those who reaped the financial rewards of this contamination accountable.” The effect of PFAS is perhaps best exemplified by their impact on the Highland Dairy in Clovis, whose entire herd (3,665 cows) had to be euthanized because their milk was contaminated as a result of the PFAS that they had ingested. The estimated loss of revenue and increased expenses was almost 6 million dollars.
The defendants listed in the lawsuit knowingly marketed and advertised their products, aware that they would harm human health and the environment. The defendants concealed the harmful side effects of their products containing PFAS and publicly contradicted the risks to gain enormous profits. In addition to their intentional deceptiveness, manufacturers never advised their customers how to properly dispose of PFAS, resulting in the product being stockpiled at some of the sites in New Mexico.
“PFAS chemicals are not called ‘forever chemicals’ for nothing. They do not degrade, these poisons are everywhere in our environment, even in our bodies. The suit by Attorney General Torrez is an important step to forcing companies to reign in the use of these chemicals and find alternatives,” said Camilla Feibelman, Director of the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter.
“New Mexico’s air, land, waters, wildlife, and communities are regularly – and knowingly -assaulted by toxic pollution from oil and gas production, mining, weapons production, and commercial activities like dry cleaning,” said Conservation Voters New Mexico Executive Director Demis Foster. “We applaud the Attorney General for taking on this tough but necessary fight to hold PFAS manufacturers accountable for the damage these insidious chemicals have caused and will continue to cause.”
The lawsuit is alleging public nuisance, negligence, products liability, violations of the unfair practices act and other claims. The state is seeking for defendants to pay all costs associated with the cleanup and treatment of our natural resources.