Kleenex Manufacturer Sued Over Polluting Town With PFAS Chemicals

Kimberly-Clark, the tissue maker behind Kleenex, faces accusations of contaminating a town’s air and drinking water with toxic ‘forever chemicals.’

Legal Battle Unfolds

Residents in the vicinity of Kimberly-Clark’s facility allege that the company’s manufacturing processes have introduced per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) into the local environment.

These chemicals, notorious for their persistence and harmful effects, have allegedly contaminated private water wells and diminished property values.

The heart of the legal dispute lies in the claim that Kimberly-Clark’s operations have resulted in the release of PFAS into the air and the disposal of paper sludge, further exacerbating the contamination.

PFAS, known as ‘forever chemicals,’ pose significant health risks and have been linked to various illnesses, including cancer and hormonal dysfunction.

Kimberly-Clark has been hit with a proposed class action filed by Connecticut residents residing near its manufacturing facility and quickly denies the allegations, asserting it doesn’t use PFAS in its U.S. consumer products.

The company intends to defend itself against the lawsuit vigorously.

Town Fights Back

The residents say PFAS emitted from the facility’s smokestacks attaches to air particles or rain before landing on their property, and that can seep through soil into groundwater.

They claim contamination on their properties has led to a drop in property values and increased their risk of disease from drinking polluted water.

The plaintiffs seek $5 million in damages, a medical monitoring program, and the installation of PFAS filtration systems at Kimberly-Clark’s facility. They accuse the company of negligence for failing to prevent PFAS exposure and its detrimental consequences.

This Isn’t Kimberly-Clark’s Only Lawsuit

According to CBC in September of 2023:

The B.C. Supreme Court has partially certified a class-action lawsuit against Kimberly-Clark Corporation, the maker of Kleenex, after the company produced flushable wipes that were contaminated with bacteria.

The suit was brought forward by Linda Bowman, a British Columbia resident who purchased Cottonelle wipes at Costco on July 17, 2020.

She allegedly experienced exacerbated body pain and developed inflamed skin follicles and sores from using the wipes.

According to the court decision released on Aug. 28, that may have been due to the wipes being contaminated with the bacteria Pluralibacter gergoviae, which Kimberly-Clark maintained was “intermittent and infrequent” in a certain production line. The product was subsequently recalled, and some customers were refunded.

The case in the US will likely set a precedent for how similar claims are handled in the future, which would influence PFAS and other contaminants’ industry practices and regulatory policies.

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