Women’s rights are fading. The world is burning. The supply chain crisis has grown so severe that Kourtney Kardashian didn’t have enough fabric to make a wedding veil and a dress. Yet, somehow, amid the turmoil and mounting evidence that humanity, as a species, could maybe just call it a day—one woman still believes we’re worth saving.
Erin Brockovich, the environmental activist whose life and work famously nabbed Julia Roberts her second Oscar, recently visited two Maine towns to encourage residents to file lawsuits against the chemical manufacturers that have contaminated their water, food, and livelihoods with PFAs—also known as “forever chemicals. (And short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.) On Monday, the Bangor Daily News reported that hundreds of lawsuits are now expected as a result of Brockovich’s visit.
“This community is, you know, they’re just grief-stricken,” Brockovich told WABI-TV during her visit to Fairfield.“They’ve got severe PFAS contamination in their well, their well waters, their cattle, its been in the chicken, in the food chain, their farming is destroyed.” And if anyone can speak on the severity of plants contaminating communities with chemicals, it’s obviously Brockovich. She notably won a $333 million settlement for Hinkley, California, in 1996 after Pacific Gas & Electric poisoned their groundwater with chromium-6.
PFAS, to put it as simply as possible, are everywhere and in everything. Over 5,000 chemicals are classified as PFAS and they’re used in products from Telfon to waterproof mascara to water repellent clothing to microwave popcorn bags. They take forever to break down and can live on in the environment and our bodies for decades—and are linked to a number of health conditions, including asthma and cancer. Currently, there are thousands of PFAS lawsuits across the US. Over 6,000 have been filed since July 2005, according to Bloomberg Law, which noted there’s been an explosion in cases over the last two years due to increased awareness.
As an added fun fact, the CDC says more than 95 percent of the US population definitely already has PFAS in their bodies. So, if you don’t have enough environmental disasters to throw you into existential dread, I hope this helps.
Despite these grim statistics—and that the reason for PFAS flooding the world is undoubtedly our society’s addiction to materialism and consumerism—Brockovich still believes we don’t deserve to live like this. We don’t deserve to have toxic chemicals swimming through our veins just because we wanted to enjoy a bag of microwave popcorn on a Tuesday night. Being reminded that Brockovich is still out here advocating, fighting, and believing in us, is deeply comforting.
We can do better. We can be better. If only to ensure that Erin Brockovich’s continued efforts to save us aren’t for naught.
I’m looking at you, Susan Collins.