DuPont, Corteva Agriscience and Chemours announced a joint $4 billion deal to settle potential lawsuits related to toxic PFAS, chemicals with a wide range of consumer and industrial uses which have been linked to serious health issues.

The nonbinding memorandum of understanding updates previous agreements regarding how the companies will handle possible future lawsuits related to PFAS, Law360 reported. 

Chemours, Corteva and DuPont are currently separate, publicly-held companies. The agreement, which was announced Jan. 22, concerns past use of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) from when the three entities were part of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. (Chemours split off in 2015, while Corteva and what’s now known as DuPont de Nemours Inc. split apart in 2019.)

According to the deal, DuPont and Corteva, on the one hand, and Chemours, on the other hand, will split qualified expenses 50-50 for the next 20 years up to a maximum of $4 billion. In addition to cost-sharing, the agreement also establishes a $1 billion maximum escrow account to address potential future PFAS liabilities. Each “side” will pay $500 million per year into the account for eight years.

A separate $83 million settlement was reached to resolve nearly 100 pending lawsuits consolidated in a federal court in Ohio, Bloomberg reported. The lawsuits involve perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a type of PFAS which is no longer manufactured in the U.S. However, PFOA is still manufactured internationally and can be found in imported consumer goods.

PFAS: The Forever Chemicals 

PFAS were developed in the 1930s and were first applied in nonstick and waterproof coatings. Since then their use has expanded to a wide range of products — from food packaging, cleaning products, stain repellents, carpet and furniture to firefighting foam. There are nearly 5,000 different kinds of PFAS, some of which are more commonly utilized than others.

With a very strong carbon and fluorine bond that tends not to break down, PFAS can accumulate in the air, soil and water as well as in our bodies. That’s why they’re often called “forever chemicals.” A report from the Environmental Working Group published in October stated that PFAS are in the drinking water of most Americans, although levels of PFAS vary depending on location. 

PFAS are linked to health issues including low infant birth weight, immune system impacts, early menopause, cancer, and thyroid hormone issues, according to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Blood tests have shown an accumulation of certain PFAS in animals and humans, according to the Food and Drug Administration