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Healey sues 13 makers of toxic PFAS chemicals for contaminating Mass. water

Firefighters walk through foam used to extinguish a four-alarm fire on Washington Street in the Dorchester in 2018. (David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Firefighters walk through foam used to extinguish a four-alarm fire on Washington Street in the Dorchester in 2018. (David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Attorney General Maura Healey announced Wednesday the state is suing 13 manufacturers of toxic PFAS compounds, including chemical giants 3M and DuPont, for producing and selling firefighting foam that contains the chemicals.

"Their actions violate state and federal laws that are intended to protect our residents and place costly burdens on our communities that are now forced to clean up this mess," Healey said in a press conference. "These are manufacturers who attempted to hide just how dangerous this foam was, who prevented their workers from discussing the dangers of their products. Despite the fact that PFAS was toxic, these makers continued to make and sell their products without disclosing the harms."

House Speaker Pro Tempore Kate Hogan, who represents Hudson, Stow and other towns now struggling to clean up PFAS, said efforts to remove the contamination are expensive and difficult, especially for small towns.

"At present, the cost of PFAS cleanup of our drinking water is borne by the very same homeowners, taxpayers and ratepayers who have discovered PFAS in their drinking water," Hogan said.

Chemicals from firefighting foam can leach into surface and groundwater from airports, fire academies and military bases.

Healey said a settlement "in the millions" would be needed to remedy the issue.

Recent analyses found PFAS in Massachusetts public water systemsCape Cod ponds and many Massachusetts rivers, pointing to widespread contamination throughout state lakes, ponds, rivers and aquifers used for drinking water.

Thousands of PFAS chemicals exist. Beyond firefighting foam, they've appeared in a range of consumer products for decades.

PFAS compounds are often called "forever chemicals," because they do not break down easily. Studies have linked PFAS exposure to elevated cholesterol, thyroid disease, damage to the liver and kidneys, effects on fertility and low birth weight.

Related:

Barbara Moran Twitter Correspondent, Environment
Barbara Moran is a correspondent on WBUR’s environmental team.

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