PFAS chemicals are synthetic substances that have been found to cause cancer in humans. Frequently found in groundwater and drinking water, PFAS substances have been linked to increased rates of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, kidney cancer, testicular cancer, prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer. Lawyers handling PFAS cancer lawsuits believe Rhode Island persons and the family members of persons who have developed cancer from PFAS water contamination in Rhode Island may be eligible for significant compensation. This page provides a comprehensive look at PFAS cancer from drinking water contamination in Rhode Island.
PFAS cancer develops through exposure to per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals. Also known as "forever" chemicals, these human-made substances are characterized by the strongest possible chemical bond, fluorine and carbon. Once introduced into the environment or the body, these chemicals never degrade. Accumulation in the body over time has been found to cause PFAS cancer.
There are over 4,000 PFAS chemicals in existence. PFOA and PFOS, the key ingredients in Dupont's Teflon and the federal government's Scotchgard, are among the best known. While these two have been mostly phased out of use, they persist in our environment. Additionally, new PFAS chemicals have been developed to take their place.
In lab tests and through real-world data collection, PFAS chemicals have been found to cause cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says PFOA and PFOS may be linked to cancer. In November of 2016, the EPA issued a PFAS Cancer Health Advisory, stating that lifetime exposure to PFAS above a certain threshold may result in "adverse health effects" including compromised fetal development, cancer, and liver, thyroid and immune problems. The International Agency for Research on Cancer also classifies PFAS chemicals as possible human carcinogens.
People in Rhode Island are at risk for PFAS cancer when these synthetic chemicals accumulate in the body. There are numerous ways people in Rhode Island may become exposed to PFAS substances, including through our food, clothing, cookware and industrial job sites. However, the most common exposure is thought to be PFAS contaminated drinking water in Rhode Island. Decades of heavy PFAS use has led to contamination of groundwater and PFAS in drinking water in Rhode Island and communities throughout the United States. Unreleased federal data reveals that 110 million Americans are thought to be drinking PFAS-contaminated drinking water.
PFAS chemicals have been released in many different industrial and commercial settings. The use of fire-fighting foam containing PFAS chemicals in Rhode Island plays a significant role in the water contamination problem. Since 1969, the U.S. military has relied heavily on PFAS fire-fighting foam for crash- and fire-response training, equipment testing and emergency response. At airports, military bases and training sites in Rhode Island and elsewhere, fire fighting foam has been used in abundance and then hosed off. In this way, PFAS chemicals enter the groundwater in Rhode Island. Groundwater travels up to hundreds of miles through underground seepage, ending up in Rhode Island-area streams and lakes, and ultimately in our domestic wells and municipal drinking water sources around Rhode Island.
Researchers believe most people in Rhode Island have already come into contact with cancer-causing PFAS chemicals. An estimated 98% of blood collected contains PFAS and newborn babies in Rhode Island are born with PFAS chemicals already in their bodies.
At this time, three main types of PFAS cancer research have been conducted. Together, these three paint a picture of PFAS cancer in Rhode Island, confirming a correlation and suggesting how it may occur.
The first type is lab testing with animals. Animals exposed to PFAS substances in labs have developed cancerous tumors, thus confirming PFAS substances are carcinogenic.
The second type of PFAS cancer research is an examination of populations known to have been exposed to PFAS in drinking water. A large-scale study was conducted between 1996 and 2005 in 13 counties surrounding Dupont's Teflon manufacturing plant in West Virginia and Ohio. PFOA was known to have contaminated the drinking water serving approximately 70,000 people in those communities. Researchers identified elevated rates of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, kidney cancer, testicular cancer, prostate cancer and ovarian cancer in this population, indicating a clear PFAS cancer link.
The third and most recent area of PFAS cancer research compares the characteristics of PFAS substances with other known carcinogens to understand how PFAS substances cause cancer. Cancer researchers from the Environmental Working Group and Indiana University teamed up to study 12 PFAS chemicals. Each substance in the study was found to share at least one trait of common carcinogenic substances. The researchers concluded PFAS cancer may be linked to these substances' tendency to alter human DNA, weaken the immune system, induce chronic inflammation, cause cell proliferation, and/or alter normal communication patterns between cells. The study was published in March 2020 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
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