Protect Oregon’s drinking water from toxic PFAS: Ask Congressman Walden to designate PFAS as a “hazardous chemical”
Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a category of hazardous chemicals that are currently designated as “contaminants” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. To protect human health, Congress must designate PFAS as hazardous chemicals, which will speed up the identification, cleanup and monitoring of PFAS contaminated sites under federal Superfund law.
What are PFAS and why should you be concerned?
PFAS are a group of 47,000 synthetic chemicals that are known as ‘forever chemicals’ due to their persistent nature in the environment. They easily move through air and soil and contaminate clean water sources, and because they do not break down, they accumulate in our bodies and in wildlife and aquatic species over time. Adverse human health problems associated with PFAS include cancer, kidney disease, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol, preeclampsia, low birth weight and reduced effectiveness of vaccines. PFAS contamination is widespread–according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, PFAS are found in the blood of 97% of Americans.
PFAS also harms wildlife and aquatic life–PFAS is found in arctic ice and polar bears; Washington State passed legislation to curb PFAS in part due to its impact on resident orcas; testing in Michigan led the state to issue warnings to not eat deer from certain areas; and the list goes on.
PFAS have been used since the 1940s due to their nonstick, and heat, water, and oil resistant nature. One of the two most widely studied of the 47,000 chemicals are PFOA, which was used to make Teflon cookware nonstick, and PFOS, which was used to make Scotchgard water repellent. Both of these chemicals were voluntarily phased out by companies in the early 2000s, but PFAS are increasingly appearing in other consumer products such as “compostable” dishware, stain-resistant clothing, and food packaging. They have been widely used in firefighting foams which has led to contamination of almost every military base, commercial airport, and fire training center.
In Oregon, limited testing has been done, but two sites were reported to be contaminated with PFAS this year, and 6 other industrial sites have been suspected of PFAS discharge. Drinking water in Klamath Falls has tested positive for PFAS, probably due to firefighting foam used at a nearby airport.
What Congress can do
PFAS are toxic, are widespread in the environment, and last forever. One immediate action that the U.S. Congress can take this September is to correctly label PFAS as “hazardous substances” (rather than “pollutants”). This will expedite action to identify and clean up contamination.
What you can do
By September 6, let your U.S. Senator and U.S. Congressman know that you support designating PFAS as a “hazardous substance” under the Superfund law (and let them know that the Senate PFAS phase-out plan is stronger than the House phase-out plan and will result in more action sooner). Oregon Congressman Greg Walden is an especially important voice because he sits on a key committee that will soon decide whether to designate PFAS as a hazardous substance. If you live in the Congressman Walden’s District (the 2nd District of Oregon), please phone Congressman Greg Walden at his DC office: 202-225-6730. Let his staff know that you are a constituent and that you want Congressman Walden to support designating PFAS as a “hazardous substance” under the Superfund law. Your phone call will make a difference here in Oregon by speeding up cleanup of the Klamath Falls site among many other sites that require attention.
Thank you for taking action!