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A group of chemicals, known as polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), have been a concern for some time. PFAS include hundreds of man-made chemicals that are similar in structure. Many PFAS continue to be used in the manufacture of a variety of consumer products; examples include non-stick cookware, water-resistant clothing, carpets, and firefighting foam.
PFAS continue to be embedded in the environment; they do not degrade immediately and persist in the environment for a long time. Existing data show that PFAS are also widespread in the environment. They are already present in the drinking water of millions of Americans. This is a significant issue because PFAS are so slow to metabolize and be eliminated from the human body. PFAS also bioaccumulate in fish and animals. Ingesting contaminated water, fish, and animals can result in increasingly high levels of these toxic chemicals in the body.
Until recently, PFAS have remained largely unregulated by federal authorities, who have failed to compile the evidence needed to develop truly safe standards for drinking water. The Safe Drinking Water Act has set “Maximum Contaminant Levels” (MCLs) for 90 drinking water contaminants. Currently, there are no MCLs for any PFAS. Health problems are being linked to the exposure to PFAS. These health risks include high cholesterol, testicular cancer, and kidney cancer. Some studies have been done on the more prevalent PFAS, but appropriate regulations still need to be implemented.
In 2018, Congress appropriated $10 million to conduct a nationwide study on PFAS and recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) announced it will use the funds to evaluate highly exposed communities in a number of states, including California, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. The scientific conclusions of the study should help both the public and the regulatory community understand rapidly emerging environmental health.
A federal review process under the Paperwork Reduction Act requires formal review of the study by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The CDC cannot begin the study without approval. The OMB seems to be delaying the study until another study on PFAS is conducted in New Hampshire.
The OMB study relates to the elevated levels of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) found in 2014, in a well providing drinking water to Pease International Tradeport and vicinity. The well was shut down by the City of Portsmouth, since the PFOS levels found exceeded a provisional health advisory set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
In the absence of federal leadership, many local communities have shut down contaminated wells. PFAS have a “half-life” in human blood of three to five years. If study participants are recruited months or years after ingesting contaminated drinking water, then the results generated are likely to underestimate the health risks of the contaminants. Meanwhile, millions of Americans continue to be exposed to PFAS. There is no legitimate reason for the current administration’s delay of vitally important work.
If you were exposed to PFAS in drinking water and believe the exposure is affecting your health or damaging your property, contact our experienced Philadelphia environmental contamination lawyers at Williams Cedar. We have successfully won settlements for clients whose drinking water was contaminated with chemicals. Contact us for a free consultation by calling 215-557-0099 or 856-470-9777 or complete an online form. Located in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we represent clients throughout South Jersey, Pennsylvania, and nationwide.