by Richard Baron, Founding Partner, Foley Baron Metzger Juip PLLC
Benjamin Fruchey, Associate Principal, Foley Baron Metzger Juip PLLC
Nicholas Andrew, Associate, Foley Baron Metzger Juip PLLC
Most contaminants share a common trait: stop their release and the ecosystem will dilute them, neutralize them, or degrade them until they are no longer a threat to human health or the environment. Yet some compounds do not seem to fit this mold. Specifically, greater attention and scrutiny is now being focused on the potential harmful effects of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances, compounds that appear to be highly mobile, easily enter the human body, and are persistent in the environment. PFASs are man-made, so there are no natural sources in the environment, yet they have been detected in the Arctic Circle and in other remote locations such as open ocean waters, indicating their ability to travel via wind and water. Exposure to PFASs is already so widespread that they were detected in 95–100% of human blood samples in 1999–2000 and 2003–2004. And due to the strength of PFASs' bonds, they are very stable in the environment, low in volatility, and are resistant to biodegradation, photoxidation, direct photolysis, and hydrolysis. This combination of factors could create an enormous problem for the scientific and medical communities if it is confirmed that PFASs increase the likelihood of certain medical conditions in humans, even as new production of these compounds is waning worldwide. Furthermore, the discovery of multiple sites in Michigan where PFASs may have contaminated the soil and groundwater of local communities has thrust this issue into the limelight in Michigan specifically, while regulators at the State and federal level move slowly to develop a response.
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