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Press Release  AG Healey Calls on U.S. Senate to Pass Legislation to Protect the Public From Highly Toxic ‘Forever’ Chemicals

Coalition Urges Senate Leadership to Adopt Strong Public Health Protections Against PFAS in This Year’s National Defense Authorization Act
For immediate release:
11/09/2022
  • Office of Attorney General Maura Healey

Media Contact for AG Healey Calls on U.S. Senate to Pass Legislation to Protect the Public From Highly Toxic ‘Forever’ Chemicals

Chloe Gotsis

BOSTONMassachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today led a coalition of 18 attorneys general in calling on the U.S. Senate to pass a Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with needed protections to combat exposures to poly- and perfluoroalkyl (PFAS) “forever” chemicals—a class of highly toxic and environmentally persistent chemicals that pose serious threats to public health— in communities across the country.  

“Cities and towns across Massachusetts are continuing to spend millions of dollars fighting to protect our residents and the environment from the serious risks posed by these dangerous chemicals,” AG Healey said. “We need the federal government’s help in identifying and cleaning up contaminated sites, ensuring our residents have safe and clean drinking water, and assessing the growing threat of PFAS to public health and our natural resources.” 
 

In a letter sent today, the coalition urges Senate leaders to provide the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) with the tools necessary to conduct remediation and removal of PFAS contamination to protect public health and the environment. States across the country, including Massachusetts, are currently spending tens of millions of dollars to fight the serious health dangers PFAS contamination poses, and the threat to the public and the environment from the chemicals is growing. In the letter, the coalition endorses the Senate Armed Services Committee’s conclusion that to effectively address the persistence and toxicity of PFAS chemicals, we need a “whole-of-government” approach.  

 

PFAS are man-made chemicals that have been used to produce countless consumer products since the 1940s, including textiles with Scotchgard; Teflon products, including non-stick cookware; food packaging; and waterproof clothing. Firefighting-foam-containing PFAS has also been used for decades by the U.S. military, airports, industrial facilities, and local fire departments. PFAS are estimated to be detectable in the blood stream of 99 percent of the U.S. population.    

  

PFAS are highly toxic to humans and animals and extremely resistant to degradation in the environment — that is why PFAS are known as “forever chemicals.” Exposure to various PFAS, including through contaminated water supplies, can lead to serious health issues, including decreased antibody responses to vaccines, increased risk of childhood infections, developmental issues for children, decreased birthweight, testicular and kidney cancers, ulcerative colitis, liver damage, and thyroid disease. 

 

The attorneys general urge the Senate to adopt additional protections that appear in the House NDAA bill, which was recently passed by a strong bipartisan majority. These provisions include: 

  • Mandating that all DoD cleanups of PFAS contaminations satisfy the most stringent state and federal standards and health advisories; 
  • Prohibiting the procurement of personal protective firefighting equipment containing PFAS after October 1, 2025 (subject to an exception for lack of availability); 
  • Requiring DoD to provide briefings to the Armed Services Committees on steps the department has taken to identify items containing PFOA and PFOS and its efforts to limit procurement of those products;  
  • Requiring DoD provide a detailed report to Congress on establishing a process to alert active and retired members of the Armed Forces (and their families) about exposure to PFAS;  
  • Requiring DoD report on progress made in the replacement of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF)-containing fire-fighting agents and on known or suspected PFAS contaminations around military installations related to substances other than AFFF;  
  • Directing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to expand its study of the health effects of PFAS contamination and to report back to Congress; and 
  • Directing DoD to establish a program coordinating with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to test for PFAS in drinking water at schools operated by DoD and to install safe and effective filtration systems to meet state and federal standards. 

AG Healey was part of a coalition of attorneys general that called on Congress to address PFAS in the FY2021 and FY2022 NDAAs. Following the coalition’s efforts, the NDAAs required: the addition of various PFAS to the Federal Toxics Release Inventory; publicly available reporting of data regarding PFAS waste management; the phasing out of PFAS AFFF at the DoD’s sites; the funding of research of alternatives to PFAS-containing gear; and completion of PFAS testing at Department of Defense and National Guard facilities. 

On Monday, AG Healey joined a coalition of 18 attorneys general in submitting comments to EPA in support of its proposed rule designating the two most common types of PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, the federal Superfund program. The proposal will shift the responsibility of cleanup to the polluters. The comments call on EPA to consider the designation for the entire class of PFAS chemicals.  

AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division has prioritized combatting the growing public health risks associated with PFAS. Since 2019, AG Healey has repeatedly urged Congress and EPA to enact strong regulatory, reporting, and monitoring standards for PFAS and to assist states and communities with the costs of drinking water treatment and other cleanup measures. 

AG Healey’s Office is also a member of Massachusetts’ PFAS Interagency Task Force focused on the multifaceted PFAS challenges Massachusetts is facing and how it can actively address them. 

In May, AG Healey sued 13 manufacturers of PFAS for causing millions of dollars in damages to communities across Massachusetts by knowingly contaminating drinking water sources, groundwater, and other natural resources with PFAS chemicals, posing a serious threat to the environment and public health. The suit also names two companies that shielded assets that should be available to remedy the damages caused by PFAS contamination. According to the AG’s lawsuit, the manufacturers’ illegal actions led to the contamination of countless water supplies in Massachusetts, including more than 126 public drinking water systems in 86 communities with serious levels of PFAS contamination such as in Weymouth, Abington, Rockland, Cape Cod, and Stow. 

This matter was handled for Massachusetts by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Goldberg of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division. 

Joining AG Healey in sending today’s letter are the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia.  

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Media Contact for AG Healey Calls on U.S. Senate to Pass Legislation to Protect the Public From Highly Toxic ‘Forever’ Chemicals

  • Office of the Attorney General 

    Attorney General Maura Healey is the chief lawyer and law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
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