It’s Time to Ban Most PFAS Uses
Congress needs to ban all but essential uses of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Firefighters who constantly wear turnout gear with incredibly high levels of PFAS are more likely to die of cancer than fighting fires. Dairy farmers destroy gallons of milk due to PFAS contamination, yet we continually aerially spray PFAS when applying Anvil 10-10 and other pesticides. These chemicals are associated with suppressed immune function, thyroid disease, testicular and kidney disease, cancers, and liver damage, yet we allow our children to play on artificial turf that contains PFAS. We even let it into our homes in the forms of food packaging, cosmetics, rugs, and other consumer goods. If we don’t act now, it is only going to get worse, because this stuff won’t go away.
Industry continually downplays the risks of PFAS, and then places these chemicals in consumer products despite little to no performance advantages. For too long industry has passed tremendous costs on to the states, municipalities, ruining businesses and lives.
The Council of the European Union, upon realizing the dangers associated with PFAS, stated PFAS should only be allowed if “proven essential to society.” When a use exists that is non-essential for the health, safety, or functioning of the society, and no functional alternatives exist, that use is immediately eliminated. This both improves and accelerates the way that regulators phase out harmful toxic chemicals and, in turn, ensures that we only introduce these chemicals into our households if the need is absolutely essential.
In the United States, Section 6(g) of the Toxic Substances Control Act has a similar definition for critical or essential use. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the capability to ban all but essential uses of PFAS and follow in the European Union’s footsteps. Yet, EPA has failed to take any meaningful action, and as a result has failed its basic job of protecting human health and the environment.
Industry has lied to the American public and EPA has been absent. Congress needs to step up and ban all but essential uses of PFAS and hold polluters accountable. Every delay in regulation increases exposure.
Monica Mercola is PEER’s Legal Fellow.