FOUR THINGS INSURANCE PROFESSIONALS
SHOULD KNOW ABOUT “FOREVER CHEMICALS”
No matter where you live,
you and your family are exposed
[M]ichigan has identified over 200 forever chemical contaminated sites in the state.
Experts estimate that this number will grow to 11,000 … .
By Chris Bunbury
If you are not familiar with per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances such as PFAS/PFOA chemicals, you should be. Also known as “forever chemicals,” PFAS/PFOA chemicals are deeply ingrained in the fabric of our society and are dangerous enough to make asbestos and lead look like elementary environmental issues. Forever chemicals’ negative impact on our environment and human health cannot be understated. No matter where you live, you and your family are exposed to forever chemicals.
Here are the four most important things every insurance professional should know about them:
- Know your history. During our lifetime, we have grown up in a kind of “Wild West Chemistry Lab.” Companies like Dupont, Dow, 3M, and Proctor & Gamble have scientists and chemists on staff whose purpose is to design and patent thousands of forever chemicals. Amazingly, while these Wild West labs were cranking out forever chemicals, their impact on the environment and on human health was not addressed. Forever chemicals are a group of human-made chemicals that number in the thousands and are used for their resistance to heat, water, oil, and grease. Forever chemicals have been manufactured and used by a vast array of businesses around the globe since the 1940s and contaminate soil, ground water, surface water, and the air. These chemicals can resist degradation in the environment and bio-accumulate—meaning that they are persistent in the environment and tend to concentrate in blood and organs over time in biological species. People can be exposed to these chemicals in house dust, indoor and outdoor air, and food, as well as drinking water, surface water, and rainwater. Forever chemicals are in firefighting foam, the clothes we wear, carpet, upholstery, and non-stick cookware. Even pizza boxes have forever chemicals that keep the grease from soaking through. Exposure to certain forever chemicals has been linked to cancer,ulcerative colitis in adults, thyroid disease in children, gout, and high blood pressure, amongother health problems. (Visit epa.gov/pfas for more information about the long-term health effects of forever chemicals.) For example, on the scope of this issue to date, Michigan has identified over 200 forever chemical contaminated sites in the state. Experts estimate that this number will grow to 11,000 contaminated sites in Michigan alone. In a recent panel discussion on forever chemicals at the American Bar Association Tort Trial & Insurance Litigation conference, I learned firsthand that attorneys are aggressively litigating forever chemical liabilities and winning huge sums of money. Attorneys see a bright future in this litigation space.
- Become a Certified Environmental Strategist. A Certified Environmental Strategist (CeS) can coach businesses to manage and transfer their environmental exposures. As the saying goes, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, which is what we learned from the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (more commonly referred to “Superfund”) in relation to dealing with forever chemicals. As a CeS you can:
- Coach your clients to inventory products containing forever chemicals
- Find alternatives to replace forever chemicals
- Do a forensic historical search of forever chemicals used in the past and learn how waste was handled, recycled, and/or disposed
A CeS is well-suited to establish relationships with emergency response contractors, so if there is a spill or release of forever chemicals, the contractor is prepared to respond and minimize the liability. A CeS can also ensure that local fire, law enforcement, and medical facilities have knowledge of materials on a business’s property and are prepared to respond.
When you take the CeS training, you will learn the step-by-step process to assist your clients to develop and execute their Environmental Management Strategy to proactively address not just forever chemicals but all the environmental exposures impacting their operations.
- Implement environmentally proactive best practices. Part of an environmentally proactive “best practices” strategy in today’s business environment means having an environmental financial assurance plan. There are several financial assurance products, such as a bond, letter of credit, self-funding/monies in escrow, and insurance. Environmental insurance policies cost insureds fractions of a cent on the dollar and can protect against forever chemical liabilities. Thousands of businesses that have been identified as Potentially Responsible Parties (PRP) for Superfund sites have gone out of business because they did not have an environmental financial assurance plan in place. Environmental insurance policies can also protect an insured if a third party’s forever chemical contamination migrates onto an insured’s property. Contamination can spread for miles and impact third parties in its path, which is another reason to look to environmental insurance as a financial assurance strategy.
- Stay abreast of environmental exposure trends. Some carriers are adding forever chemical exclusions to their policies while others will cover forever chemicals. The trend is moving toward insureds having a plan in place to minimize their environmental exposures. Besides cleanup costs, environmental insurance policies can also protect against third-party bodily injury, third-party property damage, business interruption, legal fees, transportation pollution liability, products pollution, emergency response costs, reputational risk, and more. The National Alliance offers a self-paced Certified Environmental Strategist course; in the first session, attendees learn about various environmental insurance products and how they can drive sales while better protecting E&O exposure. As a Certified Environmental Strategist, agents and brokers are armed with resources to coach clients on managing and transferring their environmental exposures. Learn more about the program at www.scic.com/certified-environmental-strategist/.
Chris Bunbury, environmental Strategist™ (eS), is president and founder of Environmental Risk Managers, Inc. (ERMI) and environmental Strategist, Inc. (eSI). Environmental Risk Managers is a national environmental insurance wholesaler, and environmental Strategist, Inc. conducts environmental research and educates businesses on managing and transferring their environmental exposures to leverage growth and profits in today’s business environment. In his eS career, Chris has assisted a wide spectrum of businesses from those that work at nuclear facilities, to a golf course that annually hosts one of professional golf’s four majors. Chris is a nationally recognized speaker on environmental risk management and insurance. Contact him at email@example.com.