Connecticut lawmakers may soon consider enacting new regulations on so-called “forever chemicals,” which are widely used in firefighter foam and other products, and linger in the environment long term, posing serious health risks for communities.
Last year, following a number of spills involving firefighting foam into the Farmington River, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont formed the Connecticut Interagency PFAS Task Force, which resulted in an action plan issued in November 2019. While the governor has indicated he is willing to put the plan in place through executive orders, members of the state legislator indicate that may not be necessary.
The Connecticut General Assembly convened this week to discuss the risk of contamination involving the PFAS chemicals, according to report in the Hartford Courant. Some members of the assembly have said they anticipate new regulations will be passed during this legislative session.
PFASs are chemical substances used to manufacture a number of products, including food packaging materials, pizza boxes, popcorn bags, fabrics, nonstick cooking pans, and firefighting foams.
The chemicals are projected to take thousands of years to degrade, and past studies have shown their ability to enter and stay in the environment and human body through the air, dust, food, soil, and water. Previous U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies have shown PFAS chemicals primarily settle into the blood, kidney and liver, and could likely be detected in the blood of 98% of the U.S. population.
PFAS were first introduced into the manufacturing industry in the 1940’s because of their ability to resist heat, grease, stains, and water. However, since then, the chemicals have been linked to a myriad of adverse health effects including liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression, and cancer.
Levels of the “forever chemicals” have been detected in drinking water systems serving Enfield, Greenwich and Willimantic, as well as a number of other communities nationwide.
The governor’s task force’s recommendations called for comprehensive testing of public drinking water, developing a Safe Drinking Water Advisory Council which would help set maximum acceptable levels of PFAS in drinking water, determining sources of PFAS contamination and vectors of human exposure, and establishing cleanup standards for water, soil and aquatic life.
The recommendations would cost millions of dollars to follow through, and the governor has indicated he is ready to enact the recommendations through executive orders, if necessary.
PFAS Exposure Concerns
In June 2019, a federal investigation found that PFAS chemicals are commonly found in numerous food products, including meats, seafood, chocolate, cake and other products. However, the FDA released a statement indicating that the levels found do not raise health concerns, based on the best available science.
According to findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2012, exposure may also suppress the immune system and limit the ability of the body to create antibodies in response to childhood vaccines.
In December 2018, all firefighting foam PFAS exposure lawsuits filed in federal courts nationwide were centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina for pretrial proceedings.