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Persistent Pollutants

Dutch lawyers sue Chemours, DuPont over PFAS

The companies are accused of misleading regulators to obtain discharge permits

by Alex Scott
September 7, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 30


A chemical plant in Dordrecht, the Netherlands.
Credit: Shutterstock
Chemours and DuPont are accused of knowingly discharging hazardous per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances from a plant near Dordrecht, the Netherlands.

A Dutch law firm is suing Chemours and its former parent company, DuPont, on behalf of more than 2,700 residents in the Netherlands. It alleges that staff at the two companies knowingly discharged per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that endangered public health. The lawsuit relates to PFAS discharged from a plant operated by the companies since 1962 in Dordrecht, the Netherlands.

The firms had received official permits to discharge PFAS from the Dordrecht plant into the environment. Lawyers filing the claim allege that the companies obtained the permits with misleading information that the discharge presented no risk to human health. The substances that have allegedly been unlawfully discharged are perfluorooctanoic acid and hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid, the latter of which is part of Chemours’s GenX technology. Both are or were used as processing aids in the manufacture of fluoropolymers such as Teflon coatings.

Chemours says it has yet to see the content of the filing. “What we can say is that we have actively participated in dialogue with the authorities over the years and have shared available information on the substances used in our production processes in accordance with regulations,” the company says.

US documents in the public domain show that the companies knew the chemicals they were discharging were toxic, says Jonatan Kleimark, senior chemical and business adviser for ChemSec, a Swedish environmental organization.

The lawsuit could herald a wave of cases against PFAS producers in Europe. There are now 17,000 sites on the continent that have been identified as having high levels of PFAS, Kleimark says.

Already in May, Dutch authorities informed 3M that they were holding the US firm accountable for damages resulting from PFAS pollution in the Western Schelde river. This follows a 2022 out-of-court agreement by 3M to pay almost $600 million to the Belgian region of Flanders for pollution caused by PFAS discharged from a 3M plant in Zwijndrecht, near Antwerp.



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