Editorial: Rokita right to target forever chemicals


The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin

Most everyone can appreciate the convenience of waterproof and non-stick products.

But at what cost to public health and the environment?

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita has filed a lawsuit against 22 companies in the state that, allegedly, have tried to conceal their longtime use of “forever chemicals” and the potential cost to human health.

Defendants in the lawsuit include heavy hitters such as 3M Company, DuPont, Corteva, United Technologies and Carrier Global.

The lawsuit was filed in Shelby County because a 2022 probe at the Army Aviation Support Facility there linked forever chemical contamination to use of AFFF foam for firefighter training. The foam has also been linked to soil, sediment, surface water and groundwater contamination near fire training areas at Grissom Air Reserve Base and Fort Benjamin Harrison.

PFAS, or forever chemicals, have been directly connected to kidney cancer, organ dysfunction, endocrine system disruption, immune system suppression, reproductive abnormalities and childhood developmental issues.

Among other uses, forever chemicals render cookware non-stick and carpeting, clothing and cosmetics stain-resistant and waterproof.

Forever chemicals were first used in household products in the 1940s and over the past eight decades have seeped into our soil and water supplies — not to mention our bodies. The chemicals are now found in the blood of people and animals across the planet, as well as in the food supply and a wide array of consumer products.

Rokita maintains that some manufacturers in Indiana have used forever chemicals recklessly, flouting public health concerns.

The lawsuit contends that, while the companies “knew or should have known about the risks associated with PFAS-containing products, ”they marketed, sold and distributed contaminated products to Hoosiers “while concealing the dangers” and “affirmatively distorting and/or suppressing their knowledge and the scientific evidence linking their products to the unreasonable dangers those products pose.”

Furthermore, Rokita says the companies violated state and federal environmental regulations and ran afoul of Indiana consumer protection laws.

Similar lawsuits are being filed in some other states in the aftermath of the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent establishment of new drinking water standards designed to limit exposure to forever chemicals.

The new EPA rule requires monitoring within five years of six different forever chemicals in public water systems and mitigation if the chemicals are found to be above the allowable level.

Indiana Department of Environmental Management public drinking water testing over the past few years has revealed forever chemicals levels that exceed the EPA’s health advisory in 24 counties: Bartholomew, Carroll, Cass, Clark, Crawford, Decatur, Elkhart, Floyd, Gibson, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Lake, LaPorte, Madison, Marion, Perry, Posey, Scott, St. Joseph, Sullivan, Vigo and Warrick.

Rokita’s office is targeting companies that not only used forever chemicals at “toxic levels” but hid internal research about harm to consumers.

Hoosiers have the right to know the environmental and public health costs of using products containing forever chemicals.

Rokita is doing the right thing by holding almost two dozen companies operating in Indiana accountable for hiding those costs, allegedly, in order to sell their products.