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Decades-Long Cover Up Led to Current Widespread Contamination - Senate Poised to Make Major Rule Change

August 7, 2018

BERKELEY, CA,  August 7, 2018 – Industrial giant 3M waited decades to reveal troubling information about the toxicity of its chemicals PFOA and PFOS, according to an analysis published last week in Environmental Health.  Now, as health officials around the world set lower and lower safety levels for these chemicals, this scientific analysis by Harvard Professor Philippe Grandjean, along with an in-depth investigative piece by Sharon Lerner, provides an illustrative example of the chemical industry’s practice of suppression of unfavorable data.

During these decades of delay, PFOA, PFOS, and other highly fluorinated chemicals (referred to collectively as PFAS) were used in a variety of consumer products, as well as in firefighting foams at airports.  The chemicals moved out of these products into air, water, and soil, where they never break down. They are now found in the blood of most Americans, including newborns.

Contaminated drinking water linked to use of firefighting foams at military and civilian airports is a major source of human exposure.  Federal rules currently require airports to use PFAS-containing foams.  Critics say it is time to rethink this policy.

“The extreme persistence and mobility of fluorinated foams leads to water contamination, serious human and environmental harm, and liability for airports,” according to Arlene Blum Ph.D., Executive Director of the Green Science Policy Institute. “Healthy, safe alternatives are in use at airports around the world, but not yet allowed in the U.S.”

Promising news is that the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 giving civilian airports the freedom to choose firefighting foams without these harmful chemicals.

“We don’t yet know how to clean up the massive contamination from fluorinated firefighting foams,” says Tom Bruton Ph.D., Senior Scientist at the Green Science Policy Institute. “Allowing airports the choice to use equally effective alternatives is sensible.”

This provision, supported by the International Association of Fire Fighters, the Airports Council International North America, and American Association of Airport Executives, passed the House in April 2018 by a vote of 393 to 13.  The Senate is poised to consider the measure later in August.

Source: Green Science Policy Institute

Available for Interviews:

  • Tom Bruton, Ph.D., Green Science Policy Institute. T: (520) 241-6118; email: [email protected]
  • Arlene Blum, Executive Director, Green Science Policy Institute. T: (510) 919-6363; email: [email protected]