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Why a corporate lawyer is sounding the alarm about these common chemicals

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27.12.2019

A conversation with the lawyer Rob Bilott is like a slap across the face. It doesn’t feel good. But it does get your attention.

According to Bilott, we face a “unique health threat” from a class of industrial chemicals that most Americans have never heard of. These chemicals are widely used in everyday products such as non-stick cookware and stain-resistant fabrics, even though science shows they are linked to a range of deadly diseases, reproductive problems and other ailments. Powerful corporations are fighting to protect the use of these profitable chemical compounds, Bilott says, and US regulators are doing next to nothing to stop them.

It’s worth listening to what Bilott has to say. He has spent the last two decades advocating for people in West Virginia and Ohio whose water was contaminated with one of these toxins, a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.

Bilott achieved a class-action settlement with DuPont in 2004, part of which paid for a six-year health study. That study found links between PFOA and kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, high blood pressure, pregnancy-induced hypertension and thyroid disease. In a follow-up case in 2017, Bilott achieved a multimillion-dollar settlement of thousands of personal injury claims against DuPont. His two decades of work negotiated water filtration and treatment for affected communities, the establishment of a novel scientific panel for human health studies, and the introduction of a medical monitoring program for thousands of people exposed. His work led to DuPont and other manufacturers phasing out the use of PFOA in the US, though similar replacement chemicals have prompted fresh concerns.

Bilott’s battle against DuPont, documented in a memoir, has been made into the feature film Dark Waters, released to theaters across the country this month. Starring Mark Ruffalo, Dark Waters tells of Bilott’s journey from a chemical industry defense attorney to a plaintiffs’ champion who uncovered evidence that DuPont knowingly hid the dangers of PFOA, even as its........

© The Guardian