PFAS and WHO: Major Conference This Week Will Impact Litigation

November 10, 2023

Read the full article by John Gardella (The National Law Review)

"This week, the International Agency For Research On Cancer (IARC) is holding a week-long conference in Lyon, France to discuss the carcinogenicity of PFOA and PFAS. IARC is the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) and it exists to coordinate and conduct research on the causes of human cancer and to develop strategies for cancer control. PFAS and WHO are two things that are not a new relationship, as the WHO has issued previously statements and recommendations on PFAS in the context of drinking water standards. However, IARC is a highly respected group of international scientists and their findings with respect to carcinogenicity very often influence an uptick in personal injury litigation in the United States, or at the very least act as a piece of evidence during toxic torts litigation.


Last year, we wrote regarding the WHO’s published findings and recommendations with respect to PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. Similarly, IARC itself previously examined the question of whether PFOA and PFOS were carcinogenic to humans. Its findings were published in an IARC monograph in 2016 in which it found that PFOA is “possibly carcinogenic” to humans. However, since 2016, numerous studies have been published on the subject of PFOA, PFOS and carcinogenicity. IARC will therefore re-examine the literature and is very likely to issue an updated monograph regarding PFOA and PFOS.

IARC and Litigation

IARC’s findings with respect to carcinogenicity are oftentimes very influential on the course of litigation in the United States. The most recent example of this came after IARC’s findings in 2015 with respect to glyphosate. IARC found that the chemical was a “probable carcinogen.” What followed shortly thereafter was an explosion of litigation against the manufacturer of Roundup weed killer (which utilized glyphosate)."