Per- and polyfluroalkyl substances—more commonly referred to as PFAS—are toxic chemicals found an alarming number of everyday products, including but not limited to:
Nonstick pans and cookware;
Stain-resistant furniture, rugs, and upholstery;
Food packaging and fast food wrappers;
PFAS have become a significant contaminant in our drinking water because of industrial spills and their prevalence in firefighting foam. Though they have been widely in use for decades, scientists have only recently begun studying their impacts.
DANGERS OF PFAS
Recent studies in laboratory animals by the International Agency for Research on Cancer have linked PFAS to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, hormone disruption, immune disorders, and reproductive disorders.
PFAS are also known as "forever chemicals" because they do not easily break down. Instead, they migrate from packaging and consumer products into our household dust and air, accumulating in our bodies over time. They can also build up in crops, livestock, fish, and game, contaminating the food we eat as well as the water we drink.
The prevalence of PFAS in many household items and safety equipment has led to high levels of PFAS exposure. A Harvard study conducted from 2013-2015 determined the drinking water in6 million households in America were contaminated with PFAS at levels exceeding federally recommendations.
To make matters worse, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) recommended to the Trump Administration that the "minimal risk level" for PFAS exposure should be substantially lowered. This could means that even more households are at risk for dangerous levels of PFAS exposure than we know about.
On June 8, 2019, over 40,000 gallons of PFAS-contaminated firefighting foam were released from Bradley International Airport and made their way into the Farmington River. State health officials immediately warned residents not to eat fish from the river, and began conducting tests on the water as they tried to contain the foam.
Regretfully, the General Assembly had the opportunity to ban PFAS from firefighting foam earlier this year. The PFAS bill (HB 5910) was voted out of the Public Health Committee, but died without a vote in the State House.
One month after the spill at Bradley, Governor Ned Lamont convened a task force to deal with the threat of PFAS. Led by the Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), the task force incorporated participants from a variety of state agencies and also welcomed participation from advocates and the public. CTLCV submitted recommendations for next steps during the public comment period.
On November 1, 2019, the PFAS task force released their final report and recommended actions. This report contained a number of legislative opportunities that CTLCV hopes to see acted upon in the upcoming 2020 session of the Connecticut General Assembly. These legislative recommendations include:
Establishing a "take-back" program for firefighting foam that contains PFAS;
Banning PFAS-contaminated firefighting foam;
Establishing a Safe Drinking Water Advisory Council to monitor emerging contaminants like PFAS and make recommendations about notification levels, testing frequency and timeframes, and public education materials.
Requiring the testing of all bottled water sold in Connecticut for PFAS contamination by manufacturers;
Requiring that consumer products containing PFAS are clearly labeled as such.
Additionally, CTLCV and other advocates strongly recommend that Connecticut establish a Maximum Contaminant Level for PFAS in our water supply to 1 part per thousand, similar to recommendations being made in other states.