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Dark waters hits the silver screen highlighting the risks of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

Feb 26, 2020

Dark Waters is a 2020 American legal thriller that will hit the UK screens soon. Based on true events, the movie depicts Robert Bilott, a lawyer who defends large chemical companies before he is approached for help by Wilbur Tennant. Tennant is a farmer from West Virginia whose land was contaminated by chemical giant DuPont one of America’s most powerful corporations.

Robert Billott, launches a legal case against DuPont, at first, on Tennant’s behalf after he shows him videos of his cows that are foaming at the mouth, covered in lesions and he is certain that they are suffering from the effects of environmental toxicity. Soon after, Billott finds evidence that DuPont are illegally dumping toxic chemical waste into the town's water supply, near a creek where Tennant raised his cows and this results in a decade long legal fight against DuPoint. Billot then moves on to represent around 3,500 people living near a chemical plant that allegedly contaminated the town’s drinking water. In recent years, studies have correlated long-term exposure with a number of serious health implications like cancer. In this landmark case, DuPont finally settled the class action for USD$671m.

Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS) belong to this group of chemicals that have been used in a range of common household products and specialty applications, including in the manufacture of non-stick cookware, fabric, furniture and carpet stain protection applications; food packaging; some industrial processes, and in some types of fire-fighting foam. These chemicals are very stable and do not break down in the environment. They can persist for a long time both in the environment and in humans.

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) chemicals are now prohibited under a Directive (2006/122/EC) that came into force in June 2008 and has been largely prohibited in the EU since 2002, although PFOA is still in production. The general public is only exposed to trace levels of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) as contaminants in food and water.

Heath Implications.

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)  are the subject of ongoing research as to their potential health impacts, due to concerns raised about their persistence in the body and in the environment. They can get into the environment during the production process or as a result of the use or disposol of products containing these chemicals. They have been detected at trace levels in human blood, and high concentrations have been linked to organ damage in rats and mice.

There are many epi studies on increased cholesterol (link to cardiovascular disease), increased liver enzymes and thyroid disease.  These endpoints tend to be consistent with animal tox studies.  EFSA based their latest opinion on decreased response of the immune system to vaccination as the most critical human health effect.  EFSA’s research underpins the new DWS. 

 PHE have committed to a large-scale biomonitoring study into PFAS.  The data will allow an estimate of total exposure from diet and drinking water.  Part of this programme will support EFSA’s evaluation and link with work being carried out by the EA.  The study is currently in the planning stage and results will not be available until early 2023.

Right Solutions Right Partner

ALS Environmental are proud to be able to offer ISO 17025 accredited testing services for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) and emerging contaminates of concern.

Whilst we can expect the film will be dramatised, as you would expect from a Hollywood film, it is based on the real high profile legal case and has highlighted the dangers of this group of chemicals if they end up in our environment. Dark waters is released in UK cinemas 28 February, watch the trailer here >

For more information on Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) testing that ALS Environmental offer please contact >