WASHINGTON — A new study by the Environmental Working Group shows PFAS: A dangerous and potentially cancerous chemical.
PFAS is short for perfloroalky and polyfuoroalkyl substances which include chemicals known as PFOS, PFOA and GenX. The report refers to them as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down once they’re in the environment.
They’ve been manufactured since the 1940s for their ability to repel oil and water. They’re found now in nonstick products, paints, cleaning products and food packaging.
A growing body of research on PFAS’ impact on human health shows exposure is linked to reproductive and developmental harm as well as liver and kidney damage and cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
EWG’s study shows PFAS have spread to nearly every state’s drinking water or groundwater supply, with especially high levels in major cities, including Indianapolis.
“This will matter in the drinking water in Columbus and in Cincinnati and Dayton,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said.
The scientist who authored the study says new data shows PFAS contamination across the country is far worse than they previously concluded.
“It’s been found in the water drinking supply on the Iowa side of the quad cities, but they haven’t tested the Illinois side, so we’re calling for testing,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said.
Democrats in the Senate are hoping to persuade Republicans to take further action to quickly remove the chemical from Americans’ drinking water.
“Families shouldn’t have to worry about when they turn the faucet on that it’s got some contaminant that can cause health problems,” Brown said.
Durbin and Brown say it’s time Congress passes stronger PFAS regulations.
They say PFAS should be designated a hazardous material at the federal level. That way, the government and companies who create PFAS would be forced to quickly remove it.
But the White House says lawmakers should wait for more science before burdening U.S. business with expensive cleanup costs.
“That shouldn’t be the first question. The first question is, is this a danger to public health, children and families?” Durbin said.
With high levels also near military sites, Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst says she’s keeping an open mind.
“I would want to make sure that we aren’t going too far, but at the same time making sure we are protecting our military members and our communities.” Ernst said.
Congressman Dan Kildee of Michigan, who already helped pass PFAS reforms in the House, says he hopes the new study pressures the Senate to do the same.
“The more people become aware, the easier it’s going to be to get policy passed through the House and the Senate and onto the president’s desk,” Kildee said.
Congress has already agreed to take some steps to address the spread of PFAS in this year’s defense bill.
The Environment Protection Agency says they’re working on their own scientific study to determine their next course of action.