Health

Hundreds of lawsuits expected over forever chemicals after Erin Brockovich visits Maine

Hundreds of lawsuits over the effects of so-called forever chemicals are expected in Maine after consumer advocate Erin Brockovich met earlier this month with residents in Fairfield and Unity, where high levels of PFAS have been found.

Concern around the chemicals that have been used for decades in products from food packaging to non-stick cookware to firefighting foam has been growing in Maine after high levels have been found in farm products, fish and wildlife, and drinking water.

As legal efforts progress to help Maine residents and the state pay for costs to cover damage associated with the chemicals, those seeking awards have to be prepared to wait years for their cases to be resolved.

As those cases get underway, litigation against chemical manufacturers elsewhere in the U.S., including in Michigan and Ohio, that have resulted in multimillion-dollar awards could represent one path for the Maine cases. Another set of cases that could serve as an example involve lawsuits against the manufacturers of PFAS-containing firefighting foam. And a 22-year-old case pending in federal court in Maine against a chemical manufacturer over its role in contaminating the Penobscot River shows how long the litigation could last.

Brockovich is known for her work on a groundwater contamination lawsuit against Pacific Gas and Electric in California that was settled in 1996. The effort was popularized in the 2000 film “Erin Brockovich” starring Julia Roberts. The paralegal is credited with helping more than 600 Hinkley, California, residents win $333 million in settlements.

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