Congress holds first hearing on PFAS contamination

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Bart Johnsen-Harris

Environment America

This morning, the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment will hold the first congressional hearing on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that have been contaminating drinking water in communities across the country. Bart Johnsen-Harris, clean water advocate for Environment America, issued the following statement:

“PFAS is contaminating drinking water from Michigan to North Carolina, affecting up to 110 million people across America. While today’s hearing shines a welcome spotlight on this problem, Congress and the EPA need to start treating PFAS like the public health emergency that it is.

“PFAS present significant threats to our health. Research has shown probable links between PFAS exposure and cancer, immune system deficiencies, high cholesterol, low fertility, and developmental issues in children and infants. Moreover, the health impacts of PFAS are magnified because they bioaccumulate in the food chain and persist for a long time in the environment.

“To date, the federal government’s response has been insufficient. Particularly shameful was the EPA and White House’s attempted coverup of the crisis, in which they put public relations over public health.

“We’re calling on the Congress and the EPA to take the following actions:

  • Prevent further contamination: halt the use of PFAS chemicals and develop safer alternatives.

  • Ensure safe drinking water for affected communities: set health protective standards for PFAS to ensure adequate clean up of contaminated drinking water.

  • Hold polluters accountable: designate PFAS as hazardous substances under Superfund and take enforcement action to ensure that polluters pay.

“In our rush to resist stains and fight fire with foam, the widespread use of PFAS has repeated the tragedy we have seen with other toxic chemicals allowed on the market without proof of safety.

“Protecting our drinking water and our health going forward will require a precautionary approach: chemicals should not be rushed into the marketplace until they are proven safe, and we need to devote more of America’s ingenuity to developing safer alternatives. With a little more care, the PFAS crisis could have been averted.”