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April 2021

For PFAS, is environmental persistence on its own enough to trigger regulation?

By PFAS in the news

California is on the verge of setting a precedent for chemical-control policy in the US. For the first time, an agency in the state plans to treat a large group of commercial substances as a class for the purpose of regulation.

The molecules in question are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Many are toxic, but not all. Of the PFAS studied thus far, some exhibit the same types of toxicity, such as liver or thyroid problems, while others work through different biological pathways to cause harm. What these compounds have in common is that they are extremely persistent in the environment, giving rise to the nickname “forever chemicals.”

And California will contend in a rule it intends to finalize by July 1 that persistence alone is enough to trigger regulation of PFAS. Read more…

‘Forever chemicals,’ other pollutants found around the summit of Everest

By PFAS in the news

From an elevation of 27,600 feet, just below the summit of Everest, researcher Mariusz Potocki could see one of the planet’s most dramatic scenes — the snow-capped Himalayas against a deep blue sky. He was on a mission to gather snow and ice samples at the summit, but just above him was another startling sight: a line of climbers so dense that a photo of it went viral.

His team had stopped at a resting spot climbers call “The Balcony,” and the snow there was littered with feces, oxygen bottles and other trash. But he wanted to gather what samples he could, so he ascended a short distance to find some cleaner snow off to the side of the trail. “I just pulled out the bottles and took samples,” he said.

And then another surprise: There, at the roof of the world, the snow samples showed traces of toxic chemicals known as PFAS, laboratory analyses done later showed. More notable results came from samples his colleagues gathered at lower elevation, which revealed these substances at levels far higher than at other mountains around the world. Read more…

‘Forever chemicals’ coat the outer layers of biodegradable straws

By PFAS in the news

John Bowden, an assistant professor at University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, wasn’t a fan of paper straws when they first gained popularity.

“They broke down in drinks really quickly,” Bowden told EHN. “They fell apart in your mouth.”

But then the biodegradable market—plant- and paper-based straws—expanded, giving people more structurally sound plastic straw replacement options. People could dip them in a drink without having to pull out a soggy clump of paper.

Bowden was skeptical. Oftentimes, companies will coat permeable products in per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are resistant to liquids. Read more…

Indoor dust contains PFAS and other toxic chemicals

By PFAS in the news

Indoor dust contains dangerous, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, according to a study published today in Environmental Health Perspectives. The study of 46 dust samples from 21 buildings at a U.S. university found that all 46 samples contained hormonally active compounds that can lead to health effects, including infertility, diabetes, obesity, abnormal fetal growth, and cancers.

The study helps explain how industrial chemicals known as PFAS and flame retardants, which are found in the blood or urine of over 90 percent of Americans and are already known to cause widespread health and reproductive effects, enter the body. PFAS, which first came to light as ingredients in Teflon, are also used to coat carpets, furniture, and clothing. Despite a lack of evidence that they prevent fires, flame retardants are added to furniture, carpet, electronics, and building insulation. While we don’t eat these products, this study makes it clear that we breathe in tiny bits of them that have entered the air as dust. Read more…

Committee votes to give DEP more power to clean up ‘forever chemicals’

By PFAS in the news

A legislative committee voted Wednesday to grant state environmental regulators the authority to order the cleanup of Maine sites contaminated with so-called “forever chemicals,” a problem that is growing in Maine and across the country.

Meanwhile, Maine Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins joined a half-dozen colleagues in petitioning the Biden administration to allow some of the $1.9 trillion in newly passed stimulus funds to be spent on PFAS contamination. The letter was, in part, responding to an appeal from Maine Gov. Janet Mills for more federal assistance in dealing with the chemicals. Read more…

Groundbreaking studies on ‘forever chemicals’ ramping up

By PFAS in the news, PFAS-REACH team news

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Andrea Amico remembers learning her family had been exposed to toxic chemicals.

“Feeling really upset that my family was exposed and not knowing what that could mean for their health,” Amico said.

Her husband and two older children drank the water contaminated with PFAS chemicals at Pease Tradeport, at work, and at daycare.

But nearly seven years later, she is no closer to finding out the long-term effects on her family’s health.

“I still don’t have any more answers,” Amico said. “I think I have a lot more worry as the science does continue to evolve around PFAS.” Read more…

Federal Lawmakers Push Bill to Tackle PFAS Contamination in Drinking Water

By PFAS in the news

Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill on Tuesday that would require the Environmental Protection Agency to start regulating PFAS chemicals in drinking water and declare them hazardous substances, steps that would allow for the cleanup of contaminated sites across the country.

The legislation follows a recent investigation by Consumer Reports and the Guardian US news organization into the nation’s drinking water, which found measurable levels of PFAS—short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances—in the vast majority of 120 water tap water samples taken around the U.S. Read more..

How “forever chemicals” might impair the immune system

By PFAS in the news

Stain-resistant carpets and nonstick pots were once the epitome of “better living through chemistry,” their space-age properties conferred by molecules known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). But in the early 2000s, researchers began to discover that PFAS were somehow reaching the farthest corners of the planet—from polar bears in Alaska (1) to pilot whales in the Faroe Islands of the North Atlantic (2). These molecules contain chains of carbon peppered with fluorine atoms, which together form one of the strongest known chemical bonds. That helps these chemicals excel at repelling grease and water but also makes them astonishingly resistant to degradation in the environment (3).

Amid a flurry of new studies, scientists are still figuring out what risks these ubiquitous “forever chemicals” pose to public health (see “PFAS Politics”). Epidemiologists and toxicologists point to myriad possible consequences, including thyroid disease, liver damage, and kidney and testicular cancers (4). Impacts on the immune system are a particular concern. Read more…

Silent Spring Institute Continues PFAS Testing On Cape Cod

By PFAS in the news, PFAS-REACH team news

Silent Spring Institute presented to the Barnstable County Board of Regional Commissioners Wednesday, April 7, about the level of certain potentially toxic chemicals in the water on Cape Cod and its current testing for them.

Founded in 1994, Silent Spring Institute is a Massachusetts-based scientific research organization dedicated to uncovering the links between chemicals found in the everyday environment and women’s health, with a focus on breast cancer prevention.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are manufactured chemicals that are resistant to degradation and can be found in everyday items such as dental floss, microwavable popcorn bags, non-stick cookware, carpets and others. Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are part of the PFAS group. Read more…

Calif. bill would ban ‘forever chemicals’ in products for children

By PFAS in the news

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – State legislation that would ban the toxic “forever chemicals”known as PFAS from a wide range of children’s products passed out of the California Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee on Wednesday.

Assembly Bill 652, authored by Assemblymembers Laura Friedman (D-Burbank), with co-authors Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), would assure parents that a wide variety of baby and kids products they purchase are free from PFAS, a group of chemicals that cause increased risk of cancer, harm to fetal development and reduced vaccine effectiveness. PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment and they build up in our blood and organs. Read more…