B.C. wants to lead the way for Canadian lawsuits targeting PFAS water contamination

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British Columbia’s attorney general says she wants to take the lead on holding PFAS manufacturers accountable for contamination that has affected drinking water systems across Canada. 

B.C. Attorney General, Niki Sharma, has launched a class-action lawsuit against 12 companies, which includes firms associated with the chemical producers 3M, DuPont and BASF, for their connections to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — known as PFAS.

“The province has filed a national class proceeding in British Columbia Supreme Court to recover the costs of detecting and removing the ‘forever chemicals’ from drinking water systems across the country,” Sharma announced in a statement on July 4. 

Sharma said she intends for the province to lead on PFAS accountability in the same way it led on civil actions “against corporations that cause widespread public harms to people in B.C., including in recent years against tobacco and opiate manufacturers.”

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The claim suggests that the 12 companies negligently designed “defective products”, leading consumers to believe there were no risks associated with their use, which Sharma calls a breach of the Competition Act and a “civil conspiracy”.

Health Canada, which last year recommended a maximum level of 30 nanograms per litre for total PFAS in drinking water, says studies have found that the group of more than 4,700 human-made substances can affect the liver and metabolism, the nervous and immune systems, as well as the birth weight of infants.

Sharma said she intends for the lawsuit to “ensure that companies that created the problem, and profited from these chemicals, pay their fair share.”

In the U.S., more than half of the attorney generals across 50 states have launched lawsuits against PFAS chemical manufacturers, which help to produce common items such as non-stick cookware and food packaging with waxy coatings, waterproof clothing and stain-resistant carpets,

In April, major PFAS manufacturer 3M settled with some 12,000 water systems across the U.S., which claimed damages for PFAS-related testing and monitoring costs, as well as costs for designing and operating treatment systems to reduce PFAS levels. The amount of the payments could range from $10.5 billion to $12.5 billion. 3M said it will exit all PFAS manufacturing by the end of 2025.

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