UN Deems North Carolina Chemical Pollution a Human Rights Violation – By Katie Myers (Mother Jones) / Dec 2, 2023
Cape Fear River, a water source for 500,000, is contaminated by PFAS.
This story was originally published by Grist and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
The United Nations says the ongoing PFAS contamination of the Cape Fear watershed in North Carolina violates residents’ right to a clean and safe environment, and it has urged the Environmental Protection Agency to hold the polluters accountable.
Its declaration marks the first time the international body has used a human rights framework to address the pervasive threat of so-called “forever chemicals” in the United States. That, in turn, could bolster national and international efforts to reckon with the public health and environmental dangers of the 12,000 common compounds classified as PFAS, which do not break down in the environment or in the body.
The Cape Fear River provides water to 500,000 people. For more than three decades, unbeknownst to residents, the Fayetteville Works chemical plant owned first by DuPont and then by the Dutch company Chemours slowly contaminated the river and local wells with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which are carcinogenic. In 2017, the public, long confused by the commonplace occurrence of rare illnesses, learned who was responsible when a local newspaper broke the story.