Water pollution in America is a crisis. We watch its story unfold in the 2019 film 'Dark Waters,' based on a true story from the perspective of Robert Bilott, a Cincinnati attorney played by Mark Ruffalo, who represents mega-corporations. 

Among his clients is DuPont, one of the world’s largest and most powerful chemical companies. DuPont produces Teflon, the synthetic chemical used as a non-stick entity in dishware, upholstery and outdoor gear.

Through personal ties, Bilott finds himself helping a cattle farmer, played by Bill Camp, whose cows are mysteriously becoming sick, mad and dying by the dozens with no explanation. 

Because of his personal work with DuPont, Bilott connects the dots and comes to the gut-wrenching realization that the chemical company is dumping hazardous waste, including that from Teflon production, into the nearby water source, poisoning the creek that runs through the farm.

Bilott switches teams and steps into the role of an investigator to prove that harmful chemicals are being dumped into the water supply, putting those exposed to it at great risk. 

A photo of a researcher holding a beaker of water, representing PFAS, the toxic chemical that is found in drinking water.

PFAS: The Forever Chemical in Drinking Water?

Tess Francke · May 8, 2020

Health Features Read Now

Here's what you can do to limit your exposure to PFAS.

The Reality of PFAS

The health effects of PFAS in the body still require further investigation. Currently, it’s determined to cause infertility, increased risk of cancer, and developmental effects in infants and toddlers, among others.

Coined the “forever chemical,” PFAS is composed of a bond between carbon and fluorine which makes it functionally stain resistant and water repellant. The strength of this bond means that the chemicals don’t go away quickly when they get into the environment.

These synthetic chemicals have seen increased prevalence in society leading to emergence in plants, animals, bodies of water and even humans. In fact, research reveals that all Americans have already ingested some level of PFAS. Runoff from plants and military bases that use PFAS is seeping into groundwater and making its way through the faucets of nearby residents.

During a legal deposition, it was found that DuPont withheld research dating back to the 1970s showing the risk of these harmful chemicals. The research stated:

DuPont refers to the men and women that your company exposed to [the synthetic chemical] as receptors. And in these receptors, your scientists found, quote, “Significantly higher incidence of allergic endocrine and metabolic disorders and excess risk of developing liver disease.”

The passionate crusade Mark Ruffalo’s character ensues establishes a necessary conversation about PFAS in our country and beyond. The overarching message of “Dark Waters” confirms a need for protective legislation to safeguard public health and vulnerable animal populations across the country. 

Watch the “Dark Waters” trailer here.