Have you heard of PFAS (Perfluorooctanoic Acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate)? Even if you don’t recognize these toxic chemicals, you’ve likely encountered them regularly. These are highly toxic chemicals that are used in a variety of products and found in water in increasing amounts. They are sometimes called a “forever chemical” because of the fact that they don’t break down and have been around since the 1940’s accumulating in the soil, air, and water that we interact with daily.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, PFOS and PFAS are manmade chemicals that aren’t naturally found in the environment. These compounds are used in a variety of industrial and consumer products like clothing treatment, carpet, and firefighting foams. The problem is that PFAS and PFOS are extremely persistent in the environment, continuously accumulating over time, and are known to bioaccumulate in humans and wildlife, specifically in the blood serum, kidney, and liver. Studies on animals show that these compounds may have potential reproductive, developmental, and systemic effects. PFAS are also linked to cancer, low birth weight, thyroid disease, and neurological problems.
Because these toxic chemicals are used widely by various companies, there have been a number of high-profile class-action lawsuits in recent years, and new lawsuits against PFAS and PFOS manufacturers are being filed regularly.
There is currently a class-action lawsuit against 3M, Tyco Fire Products, National Foam, Buckeye Fire Protection, Chemguard, DuPont, and The Chemours Company. These are manufacturers of PFAS for products such as firefighting foam, food and household products, and industrial sites. The class action was filed by the National Rural Water Association (NRWA) on behalf of its members due to the unregulated chemicals in their drinking water. The NRWA’s mission as a non-profit organization is to train, support, and promote water and wastewater professionals in small communities located in the United States.
Because the NRWA is affiliated with 49 rural water associations and has over 31,000 system utility members, the NRWA and its members are tasked with the need to spend significant resources to test and treat the groundwater contamination caused by the use of PFAS. The lawsuit seeks compensation for testing and treatment as well as damages and penalties.
How a legal nurse consultant can help.
While the current lawsuit outlined above is focused on water rather than the effects of contaminated water on humans, many lawsuits seeking damages from PFOS and PFAS manufacturers are based on health effects caused by exposure. One of the most challenging aspects of class-action lawsuits related to the health of large groups of people are the massive amount of medical records to be reviewed.
Normally firm personnel such as associates, and paralegals would be tasked with reviewing and managing these types of case files. However, it can be quite beneficial to consider hiring a legal nurse consultant to work as an extension of your firm. Not only will this save time and resources, a legal nurse consultant can use their expertise to understand complicated medical records and terminology while also looking out for omissions and errors in medical records that may not otherwise be caught by someone who isn’t a medical professional. This type of expertise isn’t generally found within your firm’s personnel but can be utilized by hiring a legal nurse consultant to work on your class action lawsuit.