Litigation over PFAS in the United States has been in the news. As companies that manufacture PFAS or use PFAS in the manufacture of other end products grapple with extraordinarily large verdicts and settlements, many will have to look to their insurance carriers to access insurance coverage. they bought to protect their businesses. In addition to current PFAS litigation, increased federal and state regulation of PFAS will result in new litigation and recoveries. The result is an emerging insurance coverage battleground regarding funding PFAS liabilities and regulatory requirements.
What are PFAS and why are they important?
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of synthetic chemicals that include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). See Glue and. al., An overview of the uses of PFAS, Envtl. Science. Processes and impacts, 2345, 2346 (2020). These types of chemicals are sometimes referred to as “eternal chemicals” because their unique chemical structure makes it nearly impossible to remove them from the environment. Chemicals are immune to natural degradation as well as heat, acids, chemical stimuli and oxidation. For this reason, PFAS persist in water sources, causing the substances to bioaccumulate in humans and animals. See “Our Current Understanding of the Human Health and Environmental Risks of PFAS”, US Envtl. protection agency, https://www.epa.gov/pfas/our-current-understanding-human-health-and-environmental-risks-pfas (last visit March 31). Studies have detailed the health effects of PFAS exposure, including cancer, thyroid disease, pregnancy complications, and high cholesterol.