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Florida sues DuPont, other companies over toxic firefighting foam

Lawyers say the manufacturers exposed residents to harmful chemicals, commonly called PFAS.
Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office filed suit in mid-April in Hillsborough circuit court. The complaint lists several places around Florida where firefighting foams were used, including the Hillsborough Community College Fire Academy at 5610 E Columbus Drive in Tampa. Moody, left, speaks at a news conference last year in Polk County alongside Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office filed suit in mid-April in Hillsborough circuit court. The complaint lists several places around Florida where firefighting foams were used, including the Hillsborough Community College Fire Academy at 5610 E Columbus Drive in Tampa. Moody, left, speaks at a news conference last year in Polk County alongside Gov. Ron DeSantis. [ Orlando Sentinel | Tribune News Service ]
Published May 3|Updated May 3

Florida is suing the makers of certain firefighting foams, accusing them of polluting the environment and potentially sickening people with chemicals.

Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office filed suit in mid-April in Hillsborough circuit court. The state’s lawyers accuse several businesses — including DuPont de Nemours Inc.; the Chemours Co.; Tyco Fire Products; and Chemguard Inc. — of using materials that could put people at risk of cancer and other illnesses. The substances are commonly called “forever chemicals.”

The companies, the Attorney General’s Office said, did not warn customers or the public about the danger.

Florida’s case follows similar lawsuits from other states and agencies, including Tampa Bay Water, which oversees much of the region’s drinking water, and the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which oversees Tampa International Airport.

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Attorney General’s Office spokesperson Kylie Mason declined to comment, saying the “case is active and ongoing.” Asked why the attorney general, who is from Plant City, filed it in Hillsborough, she said: “There are multiple locations within the state where there have been contaminations, and Hillsborough is one of those affected areas.”

Moody’s complaint lists several places around Florida where firefighting foams were used, including the Hillsborough Community College Fire Academy at 5610 E Columbus Drive in Tampa.

Related: Florida officials delayed telling residents about tainted water, emails show

Some other spots: the Florida State Fire College in Ocala, the Pensacola Fire Department and Miami-Dade College Fire Academy. The foams have been used for decades to knock down fires that burn through liquid fuel at military bases, airports and industrial properties, the lawsuit says.

Moody’s office accuses manufacturers of multiple offenses, including negligence and creating a public nuisance. The state’s lawyers wrote that the dangerous chemicals may have seeped into the ground and tainted drinking water.

The foams contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, according to the complaint. Shorthanded as PFAS or “forever chemicals,” these substances take an extremely long time to break down in the environment. They were also used in products like Teflon and Stainmaster carpets, the state’s lawsuit says.

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Exposure to forever chemicals may be connected to problems like thyroid disease, kidney and testicular cancer and high cholesterol, according to the lawsuit. Moody’s office says manufacturers knew or should have known that firefighting foams would endanger people and the environment.

The complaint does not specify how much Florida seeks in compensation or other sanctions, but it says the state has already incurred costs to investigate contamination and anticipates more expenses for environmental cleanup and helping sick residents.

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In a statement, a DuPont de Nemours spokesperson said it “is a new multi-industrial specialty products company” that did not itself sell firefighting foam. The spokesperson said the “complaint is without merit.”

Moody’s filing accuses DuPont of “a scheme to transfer” assets to shirk responsibility and make it harder for states to recoup money. The lawyers say DuPont violated Florida’s Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act.

A Tyco spokesperson said the company “does not comment about ongoing litigation.” Representatives of Chemours did not return multiple emails seeking comment. A spokesperson for Chemguard did not return multiple voicemails.

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