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Monthly Archives

June 2021

Improved medical screening in PFAS-impacted communities to identify early disease

By PFAS in the news, PFAS-REACH team news

When people learn they are exposed to toxic chemicals, they wonder what it means for their health and often want to take protective action.

We’ve heard this in our conversations with residents of PFAS-affected communities, and in their public talks—calls for medical screening to learn about potential effects on their own and their families’ health. However, people exposed to PFAS often face significant hurdles in getting screened for health effects from the exposure. And that needs to change.

PFAS compounds (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a class of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals that are in the drinking water of an estimated 200 million U.S. residents. PFAS are especially concerning because, in the words of former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Dr. Linda Birnbaum, they impact “development and reproduction and pretty much almost every system that you can think of.” Read more…

Maine lawmakers enact series of bills to tackle pollution from ‘forever chemicals’

By PFAS in the news

Maine lawmakers have passed a sweeping set of bills aimed at addressing the growing problems posed by “forever chemicals” that have shut down several farms and contaminated dozens of private wells across the state.

Although several of the bills await funding decisions or Gov. Janet Mills’ signature, Democratic and Republican lawmakers sent a clear signal this legislative session that Maine should move aggressively on PFAS pollution rather than wait for federal action. Bills passed with broad, often-unanimous support and would set among the nation’s strictest limits on PFAS pollution in drinking water, prohibit the uncontrolled testing of PFAS-laced firefighting foam, and provide millions of dollars to detect and clean up contamination.

“We really need to get ahead of this and recognize that we don’t know the extent of the issue,” said Sen. Rick Bennett, an Oxford Republican who co-sponsored several of the bills. “But what the Legislature was doing was giving the administration all of the tools … to address this as quickly as possible.” Read more…

‘Forever chemicals’ detected in Chatham drinking water wells

By PFAS in the news, PFAS-REACH team news

CHATHAM –  After a 2018 preliminary study by the University of Rhode Island, Harvard, the state Department of Public Health and Silent Spring showed that nearly half of 101 private wells tested on Cape Cod had detectable levels of potentially cancer-causing PFAS chemicals, it seemed only a matter of time before Cape towns would be finding these “forever chemicals” in their municipal drinking water supply.

Chatham was already facing water use restrictions due to a dry winter when testing this April revealed detectable levels of PFAS in three of its nine public drinking water wells. In one of those wells, one sample showed levels more than twice the actionable level stipulated by the state. That well was immediately shut down, Select Board Chair Peter Cocolis said Wednesday. Read more…

Bill would provide grants for ‘forever chemical’ contaminations but take away the ability to sue polluters

By PFAS in the news

A bill aimed at providing grants to communities affected by “forever chemical” contamination would take away the ability for cities and towns to pursue legal action against the companies or other entities that created the pollution.

The bill, approved in an Assembly floor vote Tuesday, was authored by Elijah Behnke, R-Oconto, and would create a $10 million grant program for the 2021-23 biennium for communities struggling with PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. It would be funded by American Rescue Plan Act money received by the state from the federal government. Read more…

Town facing devastating ‘forever chemical’ contamination hopes to see aid from federal stimulus package

By PFAS in the news

For a community leader like Josh Johnson, the newly elected chairman of the Town of Campbell, “forever chemicals” are more than just a health risk — they’re an expensive problem, one that a municipality of fewer than 5,000 people would struggle to fix on its own.

The town, situated on French Island across the Mississippi River from La Crosse, didn’t have funds to conduct testing last year when water contamination stemming from the nearby La Crosse Regional Airport came to light and homeowners wanted to know if PFAS had reached their wells.

Of 551 private drinking wells sampled so far, only 13 have shown no trace of the long-lasting chemicals. More than 130 have levels above the state’s recommended limits for drinking water. Read more…

Sylvia Knight: Toxic fields — time for action on PFAS and pesticides

By PFAS in the news

So what was the strange, deadened look on the wide-open farm fields of Addison County in May at a time when new spring growth was awakening and reviving our spirits? Ever so slowly, small shoots of corn are somehow making their way through yearly-compacted, chemically-drenched soils, while we are all looking for ways to put Covid-19 behind us and to seek some kind of “normalcy.”

But I believe that “normal” is not what we need. This is time to look deeply at the paradigms, the ways of thinking that bring us to this point.

Commodification of land, water and life has brought pollution, illness and economic inequity. Read more…

Foam containing ‘forever chemicals’ used against plant fire

By PFAS in the news

A company hired to help extinguish a fire that gutted a northern Illinois chemical plant this week used foam containing toxic compounds that have tainted surface waters and groundwater across the U.S., officials said Thursday.

The private contractor sprayed the foam for about three hours Tuesday at the Chemtool Inc. factory near Rockton, despite concerns raised by government regulators the previous day, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told The Associated Press.

The chemicals later were cleaned up and stored in a container, Fire Chief Kirk Wilson said at a news conference Thursday. Earlier, outside experts told the AP it would be difficult to prevent at least some of the material from seeping into groundwater. Read more…

New Study Finds PFAS in Bottled Water, as Lawmakers Call for Federal Limits

By PFAS in the news

Some noncarbonated bottled water products sold in the U.S. and tested as part of a new study contained potentially toxic PFAS chemicals, prompting calls for the federal government to set standards covering the chemicals.

The study, published in the journal Water Research and led by Johns Hopkins University researchers, detected PFAS substances in 39 out of more than 100 bottled waters tested, in some cases at levels deemed concerning by water quality experts.

The study did not identify which brands were tested. But the researchers did find that bottled waters labeled as “purified,” which are typically filtered through reverse osmosis, contained less PFAS overall than “spring” water, which is not filtered using that method. Read more…

How to make sense of the new findings on ‘forever chemicals’ in makeup

By PFAS in the news

People who wear makeup such as lipstick or mascara may be absorbing or licking up potentially harmful ingredients that hang around for decades in the environment, according to a new study by researchers in the U.S., Canada and Switzerland.

Those ingredients, known as polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), are rarely disclosed on labels, making them hard to avoid, said the study published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

PFAS are a group of more than 4,700 human-made chemicals that contain fluorine bonded to carbon, a strong chemical bond that makes them hard to break down. Read more…

Toxic ‘forever chemicals’ widespread and unlabeled in makeup, scientists find

By PFAS in the news

Cosmetics distributed in the United States and Canada are rife with a class of chemicals that have been associated with a number of diseases, including cancer, and frequently aren’t labeled accurately, according to a new study.

Over the last three years, researchers tested 231 different cosmetics products in North America for fluorine, an indicator of polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS. The study found fluorine in 56 percent of foundations and eye products, 48 percent of lip products and 47 percent of mascaras.

“We were shocked to see how much is in some of these products,” said Graham Peaslee, a professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame and the principal investigator on the study, which was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters. Read more…