Interview: Lawyer Rob Bilott on PFAS “worldwide public health threat” and his letter to President Biden

Last month, an Ohio court certified a class action lawsuit brought by lawyer Rob Bilott that would cover seven million people – and at some point potentially everyone living in the United States – who have been exposed to certain hazardous chemicals known as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances or PFAS. The chemicals have been linked to cancer, birth defects, kidney disease and a range of other human health problems. They are dubbed “forever chemicals” because they do not naturally break down, persisting indefinitely in the environment. Two types of PFAS – PFOA and PFOS – have been found to be so harmful that they are being phased out of use. In addition to 3M, the class action lawsuit names ten other companies that produce PFAS, which are used to make cookware, food packaging, water-resistant fabrics, firefighting foam and other products. The Biden administration last year pledged to undertake a massive PFAS mitigation strategy at a cost of more than $10 billion.

You have spent 20 some years now focused on exposing the danger of a class of chemicals we call PFAS, using litigation to try to hold companies involved in spreading PFAS accountable, and pressuring regulators to step up and do more to protect the public. You’ve written a book, “Exposure,” been featured in the NY Times as “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” and your legal battle has been made into a Hollywood movie called “Dark Waters,” as well as a documentary. Why are you so passionate about this issue?