Statement: Groups Praise PFAS Interagency Task Force Work and Call for Immediate Action
BOSTON – The state PFAS Interagency Task Force , established by the Legislature last year, released their final report to the Legislature about a class of chemicals called PFAS and how to regulate and mitigate their impact in Massachusetts. The Task Force was chaired by state Rep. Kate Hogan (Stow) and state Sen. Julian Cyr (Truro).
In response, a broad coalition of public health, consumer, academic, environmental and community organizations and leaders released the following statement:
We are grateful to Chairs Hogan and Cyr and members of the PFAS task force for their dedication and commitment to investigating the impacts of PFAS in Massachusetts. Their findings confirm that we face a major public health threat from the manufacture, use, and disposal of PFAS and, more importantly, the report sounds the alarm for swift action to protect public and environmental health.
A key recommendation called for PFAS to be regulated as a class of chemicals, preventing the “whack-a-mole” approach of chemically similar alternatives.
The coalition includes: Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, MASSPIRG, Clean Water Action, Massachusetts Sierra Club, Built Environment Plus, Conservation Law Foundation, Community Action Works, Environment Massachusetts, Clean Production Action, Green Newton, HealthLink, Nantucket PFAS Action Group, Seaside Sustainability, Public Health Advocacy Coalition, and the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern.
PFAS, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, refers to a large class of chemicals that were first discovered in the 1930s. These chemicals are used in manufacturing and end up in a wide variety of consumer products, including everything from rain jackets to burger wrappers to carpets. Manufacturers use PFAS to make things water-, grease- and stain-resistant. The problem is that these chemicals are proving to be toxic to human health and persist in the environment and our bodies for so long that they have been given the nickname ‘forever chemicals.’ Exposure to PFAS has been linked to a wide range of serious health effects including kidney and liver disease, immune system suppression and even cancer.
Since the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection set a Maximum Contaminant Level for PFAS in our drinking water in October of 2020, 115 public water systems in 77 cities and towns – from the Berkshires to the Cape have tested above the new legal limit. And PFAS have also been detected in every one of the 27 Massachusetts rivers tested, some of which are used for drinking water.
“The task force findings are an urgent call for action. Eliminating PFAS won’t be easy, but Massachusetts must act. We need to identify and clean up existing pollution. We need to care for those affected. And we need to hold contaminators accountable for the associated costs,” said Laura Spark, Senior Policy advocate for Clean Water Action.
“These efforts will be for nothing if we don’t stop PFAS contamination at the source,” said Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG’s Legislative Director. “It’s pretty simple: If a bathtub is overflowing, you don’t start by scooping out buckets of water to try to empty it. You turn off the faucet first. The Task Force has called for turning off that faucet completely by 2030, and prioritizing products to be phased out sooner. We hope the first priority will be passing the pending bills quickly that phase out the use of PFAS in personal protective equipment for firefighters, food packaging, and consumer products.”