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Tackling Toxic PFAS: Part I

05.29.2019

Our recent work tackling toxic PFAS chemicals (per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances) has taken us from farm fields in rural Maine to the nation’s capital. Here’s a peek into our efforts on the state and national fronts to tackle the growing crisis of PFAS contamination in our food, water, and soil.

On the National Front

Earlier this month, I joined parents, children, farmers, and others directly impacted by PFAS contamination from around the country in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress for federal action on this devastating public health crisis.

Many of the people in D.C. that day can’t drink their water, can’t fish in local streams and ponds, and can’t sell their property, because of PFAS contamination of their land and groundwater.

Today, over 97 percent of Americans have PFAS in their blood. (These harmful chemicals have even been detected in the cord blood of newborn babies.) PFAS chemicals are so persistent that they last in the environment and in our bodies for decades before breaking down, and they’re everywhere, polluting the environment on all seven continents—yes, even including Antarctica.

Here in Maine, we are no exception to the ubiquity of PFAS. I traveled to D.C. alongside Fred Stone, the third-generation family farmer whose livelihood has been devastated by PFAS contamination of his fields, cows, and milk.

“I would not wish this on my worst enemy,” says Fred about the contamination that has ruined the farm his family has run for more than a century.

In D.C., we met with a dairy farmer from New Mexico who is experiencing the same devastation as Fred. These farmers, over 2,000 miles apart, are both no longer able to sell their milk because of PFAS contamination of their fields and cows’ milk.

We also met with Maine’s congressional delegation as well as leadership of the agriculture committees to tell Fred’s story, and urge Congressional action on PFAS.

We were encouraged by our reception, but also know that legislative action on the federal level could take a long time.

Our Lawmakers Must Lead for Health

While politicians in Washington consider taking long-overdue federal action on PFAS, legislators in Maine have a chance to establish our state as a national leader in the face of this crisis.

“I would much prefer to have a less convenient pizza box than compromise my children’s health,” a frustrated mom said recently, as she implored Maine legislators to pass the Safe Food Packaging Act to make Maine a national leader in phasing out PFAS, phthalates (THAL-eights), and other toxic chemicals from food packaging. 

Tomorrow, the Maine Senate is voting on LD 1433, the Safe Food Packaging Act, which will phase toxic PFAS chemicals and phthalates out of food packaging. Mainers, please contact your Senators to urge them to pass this bill.

We’re working hard advocating for the full Maine Legislature to pass this first-in-the-nation legislation, so that Governor Janet Mills can sign it into law. 

Stay tuned for another update on our work tackling toxic PFAS in our home state of Maine.