CEH Statement on Senate Amendment on Toxic PFAS Chemicals

For Immediate Release: June 19, 2019

Contact: Ansje Miller, CEH’s Director of Policy and Partnerships, 510-379-8449

“Leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released a bipartisan compromise amendment to an annual defense spending bill (NDAA) that would significantly expand efforts to address our nation’s growing toxic PFAS chemical crisis. This large class of chemicals — with roughly 5000 registered variants — have been called “forever chemicals” because they take thousands of years to degrade. Most widely used in non-stick cookware, food packaging, carpets, clothing and textiles, and firefighting foam, PFAS have been linked to cancers, thyroid dysfunction, damage to the immune system, hormone disruption, liver problems, low birth weight, and other health concerns. Due to the ubiquity and persistence of PFAS, they are now in the blood of most Americans, the drinking water of tens of millions more, and increasing amounts of the food we eat. It is imperative that the public know when and where these toxic substances are released into the environment, especially communities that live near facilities that have released significant PFAS pollution in the past, like chemical manufacturing facilities. One important tool to ensure communities have this important information is the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI).

By adding these chemicals to the TRI – as this amendment would partially do – we can more adequately monitor where these chemicals are coming from and more accurately determine the environmental and human scope of the exposure, providing the ability to hold industrial polluters accountable for knowingly endangering public health.

Considering Trump’s EPA’s woefully inadequate PFAS Action Plan, we take some solace that Congress is beginning to recognize the health threat these chemicals pose to our country and the world. While a House version of the amendment called for the inclusion of the entire class of PFAS chemicals to the TRI, the Senate’s “compromised” amendment only addresses about two hundred of the roughly 5000 registered PFAS chemicals. This limited scope will make it more difficult to properly protect our families and communities and opens the door for companies like DuPont, Chemours, and 3M to replace the PFAS chemicals in their products with toxic copycat chemicals that they’re not required to report. 

Other provisions in NDAA amendments would take significant steps forward, including declaring all PFAS as hazardous waste in the superfund program (CERCLA), requiring the phaseout of PFAS in firefighting foam, and mandating Department of Defense facilities to meet state cleanup standards. While this legislation represents important progress, much more is needed. The health of present and future generations depend on it.”

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