CEH’s Ansje Miller Responds to EPA’s PFAS Action Plan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, February 14, 2019

Contacts: Ansje Miller, 510-379-8449, Zack Kaldveer, 510-938-2664

“Considering the magnitude of the public health crisis posed by our increasing exposure to the hazardous class of the ubiquitous toxic PFAS chemicals, indications are that EPA’s action plan is woefully inadequate and lacks the necessary urgency. These chemicals have been linked to liver and kidney damage, thyroid disease, asthma, decreased fertility, pregnancy complications, lower birth weights, and cancer. Some 110 million Americans drink water with dangerous PFAS levels and PFAS have been found in the blood of an estimated 98% of Americans.

A growing body of research indicates that approaching chemicals as a class rather than individually saves time, lives, and money. Yet, the EPA approaches these forever chemicals with a less effective approach, by addressing them individually, as in their proposal on PFOA and PFOS. There are thousands of PFAS chemicals, and there’s no reason or assurance that the individual ones the EPA is targeting are the only ones that represent a threat to human health. In fact, shorter-chain PFAS may pose a greater potential for long-range contamination. It doesn’t make sense to keep states and communities informed of the manufacture, use, and release of only some PFAS and not others, especially when new PFAS chemicals continue to be developed. We don’t have the time to waste eliminating one toxic chemical only to have a rebranded version, with similar health problems, pop back up and take its place.

The EPA plan doesn’t require the class of PFAS chemicals to be listed on the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), as it has done for several other classes of chemicals like PCBs. It is imperative that the public know when 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, airports and military bases. Yet, to date, the EPA has yet to add a single PFAS to the TRI list – let alone the 1000’s we know to exist.

The EPA’s long-awaited involvement on this issue is welcomed, but any actual relief from this “Action Plan” to all the sick American residents, marginalized communities, overburdened state agencies, and underfunded cities and states will likely be years away. Many states are done waiting and are taking things into their own hands. At least seven states will consider policies to limit levels of PFAS in drinking water, as well as fund cleanup of contaminated drinking water, including medical monitoring and testing. New Jersey and Vermont are among those that have set standards more stringent than the EPA’s, and New York is considering the toughest standard yet.

Finally, Trump’s EPA increasingly functions as a wholly owned subsidiary of the very corporate polluters the agency is tasked to regulate. Andrew Wheeler, the EPA’s current Acting Administrator, is a former coal industry lobbyist with an already disastrous record of putting corporate profits ahead of the health of people and the planet. In October, Wheeler hired David Dunlap, a former Koch Industries official, to oversee the research that went into today’s PFAS action plan. Curiously, the PFAS issue could have major financial repercussions for Dunlap’s former employer. Koch Industries subsidiary Georgia-Pacific uses PFAS in some of its products and faces at least one class-action lawsuit related to their contamination. A federal effort to protect people from toxic chemicals that are being led by a former coal industry lobbyist and Koch Industries official does not inspire confidence.”

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