The urgency of addressing “Forever Chemicals:” the scientific basis for managing PFAS as a chemical class

April 14, 2022 @ 9:00am (AKDT)

On Thursday, April 14 CHE-Alaska was joined by Carol Kwiatkowski, lead author of the recently published research paper Scientific Basis for Managing PFAS as a Chemical Class (link to paper).

PFAS are a large class of highly persistent ‘forever chemicals’ used in a wide variety of industrial and consumer products we use every day. These ‘forever chemicals’ have contaminated the drinking water of tens of millions of Americans and throughout the world for decades and consequently are now present in the bodies of everyone. Tragically, PFAS are also harmful to human health, including being associated with cancer, heart disease, birth defects, liver disease, and decreased immunity.

So what can we do? As the title suggests, this research paper argues that the thousands of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) should be regulated as one chemical class. It took years of painstaking research and policy work to phase out the two most used PFAS. Regrettably, these PFAS have been replaced with other similarly harmful PFAS chemicals. Avoiding similar ‘regrettable substitutions’ is one reason why a class-based approach is recommended for future PFAS regulations.

In Alaska, the risk of PFAS exposure is heightened by decades of dispersive use of PFAS-containing firefighting foams at airports and military bases, releases from these facilities, and PFAS contamination of essential water supplies throughout the state. To help protect future generations, we urgently need comprehensive, class-based state and federal policies to end unnecessary uses of PFAS.

In the Alaska State Legislature, bills have been introduced by Sen. Jesse Kiehl and Rep. Sara Hannan, Senate Bill 121 and House Bill 171, to establish enforceable drinking water standards, phase out the use of PFAS in firefighting foam, and provide testing and safe water sources for communities affected by PFAS contamination. At the federal level, several bills have been introduced to protect drinking water and contaminated communities, prevent firefighter exposures, provide funding for remediation; and regulate PFAS in food packaging, textiles, personal care products, and firefighting foams. Please urge your representatives to support these bills (Who represents me?).

Scientific Basis for Managing PFAS as a Chemical Class (2020) 

Nordic Council of Ministers – PFAS resources

Green Science Policy Institute 

Why PFAS Should be Considered as a Class (short video)  

Threats to Drinking Water and Public Health in Alaska: The Scope of the PFAS Problem, Consequences of Regulatory Inaction, and Recommendations (ACAT, 2019) 

The EPA Must Act to Regulate PFAS as a Class

The True Cost of PFAS and the Benefits of Acting Now

PFAS Strategic Roadmap: EPA’s Commitments to Action

The Perils of PFAS – A presentation by Dr. Linda Birnbaum to the Environmental Health Solutions Seminar Series

A Never-Ending Story of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)? 

PFAS in drinking water and serum of the people of a southeast Alaska community: A pilot study (2022)

PFAS tox database

The U.S. ATSDR is doing considerable work in helping communities understand the impact of PFAS exposures (especially through contaminated drinking water) on health.
01:18:55 Christopher Reh: Here is a link to our web page: a project of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom’s PFAS project.

Featured speakers

Carol Kwiatkowski, Ph.D., is the Science and Policy Senior Associate at the Green Science Policy Institute, Adjunct Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University, and former director of the non-profit The Endocrine Disruption Exchange. Dr. Kwiatkowski has presented and published extensively on the connections between human health and environmental chemicals, including having worked with CHE-Alaska and other CHE partners in the past.

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