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Monthly Archives

May 2021

As contaminated water concerns grow, Massachusetts towns urge the state to stop spraying pesticides in their communities

By PFAS in the news

After announcing that the town’s water supply contained elevated levels of the toxic chemicals known as PFAS, selectmen at a recent virtual meeting in Pepperell turned to another thorny subject: Should the town try to opt out of state-mandated aerial and roadside spraying of pesticides?

The issues, in significant ways, were connected.

To reduce the spread of eastern equine encephalitis and other mosquito-borne diseases, the state has sprayed millions of acres in recent years with a pesticide found to contain significant amounts of PFAS. The PFAS leached into the pesticide from its packaging. Read more…

Study Looking At PFAS In Drinking Water Begins In Hyannis This Summer

By PFAS in the news, PFAS-REACH team news

Researchers are beginning a five-year, multi-state study to look at the long-term health effects of the toxic chemicals known as PFAS in drinking water. In Massachusetts, the study will focus on Hyannis and Ayer — two communities where public drinking water supplies were contaminated by firefighting foams used at nearby fire training areas.

Barnstable town manager Mark Ells, speaking at a webinar to announce the study, noted that Hyannis has PFAS-free drinking water after the town spent millions of dollars to install a filtration system. But, he added, ”the concern regarding these emerging contaminants is ever-present.” Read more…

‘Forever chemicals’ found in home fertilizer made from sewage sludge

By PFAS in the news

Sewage sludge that wastewater treatment districts across America package and sell as home fertilizer contain alarming levels of toxic PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals”, a new report has revealed.

Sludge, which is lightly treated and marketed as “biosolids”, is used by consumers to fertilize home gardens, and the PFAS levels raise concerns that the chemicals are contaminating vegetables and harming those who eat them.

“Spreading biosolids or sewage sludge where we grow food means some PFAS will get in the soil, some will be taken up by plants, and if the plants are eaten, then that’s a direct route into the body,” said Gillian Miller, a co-author and senior scientist with the Michigan-based Ecology Center. Read more…

Avoid surface water foam while recreating outdoors, health officials warn

By PFAS in the news

LANSING, MI — Michigan officials are advising people to avoid touching surface water foam as they hit the great outdoors for Memorial Day weekend.

The reminder comes from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, (DHHS), which says foam on lakes and rivers can contain unknown chemicals or bacteria, as well as high levels of PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals.”

Bright white foam that accumulates in agitated water or piles-up like shaving cream along the beach has tested positive for high levels of PFAS in some communities. Read more…

Analysis finds pesticides, PFAS in plant-based packaging

By PFAS in the news

On May 27, 2021, The European Consumer Organization (BEUC) released findings from a study of chemical contamination in 57 pieces of single-use plant-based tableware from four European countries. Consumer groups from the four countries purchased bowls and plates made of molded natural fibers or palm leaves as well as paper straws and sent the packaging to a lab to test for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), chloropropanols (a chemical group with carcinogenic properties), and pesticide residues. Thirty of the plant-based food packaging articles (53%) contained at least one of the analyzed chemicals in concentrations above German and Danish limits, while another 12 articles (21%) contained chemicals near recommended limits. Every dish made from molded plant-fiber contained either PFAS or chloropropanols above the German/Danish limit.

BEUC’s report is not the first to find chemicals of concern in plant-based packaging alternatives. PFAS is a persistent chemical that bioaccumulates through the food chain but is regularly used to make products water-resistant (FPF reported). Recent research by Bowden et al. in Chemosphere found PFAS in 36 of 38 paper straw products tested (FPF reported) and Zimmerman et al. in Environment International found toxicity levels were similar between plastic and bio-based food packaging (FPF reported). Read more…

‘Forever chemicals’ found in mosquito spray

By PFAS in the news

With mosquito season here again, there’s reason to wonder if the annual spraying of Chesapeake Bay watershed communities to control the pesky insects could also have put humans at risk by exposing them to “forever chemicals.”

A pair of environmental groups reported recently that high levels of per– and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, were detected in a sample of a widely used mosquito insecticide that is sprayed every spring and summer in the streets of 2,100 communities across Maryland, as well as in other states. Read more…

PFAS found in widely used home garden fertilizers

By PFAS in the news

“Forever chemicals” have made their way into widely available fertilizers used in home gardens, according to a new study out today that warns of stark implications for human health.

Samples taken from nine different widely available fertilizers used for home gardening contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, according to the findings from the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., and the Sierra Club. Eight of those nine fertilizers exceeded PFAS screening guidelines established by Maine, the state that has taken the most sweeping actions on PFAS in agricultural land application.

The report traces the chemicals back to biosolids — the nutrient-rich organic matter left over following traditional wastewater treatment practices. Fertilizer products are commonly made using that waste. Read more…

At the most contaminated military sites, little to no progress in cleaning up ‘forever chemicals’

By PFAS in the news

The Pentagon has made almost no progress in cleaning up the military installations that are some of the most contaminated with the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS, according to an EWG review of Defense Department records.

Of 50 Air Force or Navy bases with some of the highest levels of PFAS contamination, only nine have cleanup plans being developed under the Superfund law, according to the most recent documents made public by the Defense Department. Not a single cleanup plan has been finalized for those nine bases, and little actual cleanup has begun.

More than five years ago, under a mandate from the Environmental Protection Agency, Defense completed testing for PFAS in drinking water at 63 installations. EWG has since identified and mapped 703 military sites with known or suspected discharges of PFAS. Read more…

More communities are finding toxic chemicals in their drinking water

By PFAS in the news

In Wayland, local officials had been distributing cases of bottled water to 1,400 households a week — nearly a third of the suburb’s residents — and may have to seek a new water source that could cost more than twice the town’s annual budget.

Facing similar contamination in their drinking water, Natick officials plan to spend millions of dollars on a high-tech filtration system. In Wellesley, after shutting down the primary well that provided water to half their residents, officials are contemplating strict water-use limits for the first time.

“We’re definitely concerned,” said David Cohen, Wellesley’s public works director. “We’ll take all the steps we need to to address this.” Read more…

Madison mayor pledges better communication on PFAS, resists call for task force, health study

By PFAS in the news

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway has pledged to improve the city’s communications about toxic “forever chemicals” but is resisting calls to establish a task force and study the health impacts.

The mayor outlined her position in a letter last week to the Sustainable Madison Commission, which had called on the city to take action to protect residents from PFAS compounds that have contaminated soil and water around the airport.

It’s been almost three years since the Department of Natural Resources ordered the city, Dane County and National Guard to clean up PFAS contamination at the airport where firefighters trained for decades using fluorinated foams. Read more…