• Home/
  • News/
  • ‘Just the start’: The growing legal battle over PFAS in Europe

‘Just the start’: The growing legal battle over PFAS in Europe


‘Just the start’: The growing legal battle over PFAS in Europe

Companies in the USA that produce or use PFAS substances are losing a lot of money in court. In Europe, some major cases are already under way – and we can expect many more.

Published on 26 Jun 2024

In the past 25 years, nearly 10,000 court cases have been filed in the USA alleging harm from PFAS exposure. Some 140 industries are facing litigation. 

Settlements in those cases total $16.7 billion so far and they are expected to grow substantially. American chemical giant 3M recently agreed to settle one such claim for $10.5 billion. 

So what is the situation in Europe? Will we go down the same route? 

“We are just at the start of litigation in Europe, more is to come,” says Robbert-Jan Kamstra, a lawyer in Amsterdam for Milberg, a US-based legal firm with offices in Europe and extensive experience of PFAS litigation. “We can expect more action by local and national governments, collective actions on behalf of groups of affected individuals and businesses, action by water companies seeking to win damages, and stricter rules on PFAS manufacturing and use,” he says.

There are more than 2,000 sites across Europe where PFAS pollution far exceeds the limit considered safe for humans. 

Here are the key facts in all the big PFAS legal cases ongoing in six European countries today:


Company: 3M
Location: Antwerp
Issue: Historic PFOS discharges into the Schelde river and the air


— A civil action by the Flemish government for cleanup costs resulted in a settlement of more than €500 million 

— Investigations by public prosecutor into 3M behaviour

— Test case by local family with elevated PFAS levels in blood which resulted in €500 compensation awarded per family member 

— Collective civil action by local residents with high PFAS levels in their blood

— The Dutch government has issued an unprecedented liability notice to 3M in Belgium over contamination of the Schelde estuary, which is downstream of the factory and over the border inside the Netherlands  

— The Dutch fishing industry is suing for economic damages amounting to several tens of millions of euros due to contaminated fish that can no longer be marketed due to EU regulations on maximum amounts of PFAS allowed in consumption products

The Netherlands 

Company: Chemours
Location: Dordrecht 
Issue: Historic PFOA and GenX discharges


— Criminal complaint on behalf of more than 4,000 residents, resulting in an investigation by Dutch public prosecutor

— Civil proceedings on behalf of four municipalities. An interim judgment in September 2023, ruled that Chemours acted unlawfully and is liable for discharges in certain historic periods, even though Chemours had the necessary permissions for discharges at the time

— Preparations for potential collective civil actions by various groups

— Civil collective action against the Dutch government on behalf of a dozen interest groups, including firefighters, demanding stricter controls on the chemicals industry.


Company: Miljö & Teknik, a water treatment company owned by Ronneby municipality
Location: Ronneby
Issue: High levels of PFAS in water and soil from fire-fighting foam at an airfield


— On December 5, 2023, after legal action lasting 10 years, Sweden’s Supreme Court made a ground-breaking judgment which might also create a legal precedent elsewhere in the EU. The court concluded that high PFAS blood levels constitute a personal injury, even if the claimant is not sick

— The Supreme Court said the municipally-owned company is liable for damages. The damages have not yet been established; this requires separate proceedings before the district court


Company: Miteni (bankrupt in 2018)
Location: Trissino
Issue: Over 350,000 residents of the Veneto region are estimated to have been exposed to PFOA through contaminated tap water resulting from pollution of the river Agno and surrounding water systems


— In May 2024, the Veneto Regional Administrative Court ruled that the company’s current and former owners, which include Japan’s Mitsubishi, will bear the clean-up costs, estimated to be €137 million

— Ongoing criminal trial against 13 senior Miteni executives and its main shareholders. 120 families are among the plaintiffs

— If found guilty, the managers risk jail time and could pay tens of millions of euros in penalties 


Companies: Arkema, Daikin
Location: Pierre-Bénite, Lyon
Issue: Historical PFAS pollution of the Rhône Valley leading to contamination of drinking water, air, soil and food, including eggs and fish


— In 2023, 11 NGOs and 47 individuals started interim legal proceedings against Arkema. In November, the Lyon judicial court dismissed the case. The plaintiffs are in the process of appealing the decision

— Last year 32 local communes (administrative areas) started legal proceedings against Arkema and Daikin, whose premises were raided by police in April

— In March 2024, some 300 environmental activists stormed the Arkema factory and are now on trial

— Also in March, the city of Lyon launched legal proceedings against Daikin and Arkema aiming to establish the duration and extent of their PFAS emissions.


Company: US/NATO Airbase Spangdahlem                  
Location: Wittlich-Land
Issue: Sewage sludge contaminated with PFAS from fire-fighting foam


— PFAS compounds are found in fire-fighting foams routinely used on NATO bases. As such, thousands of wells and water systems around the world are contaminated

— US/NATO airbase Spangdahlem was found to have groundwater contaminated with PFAS. Under German regulations, Wittlich-Land is not allowed to sue the U.S. military, so instead it sued the German government for the cost of the clean-up. It resulted in a relatively low compensation of only EUR 460,000