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Earthjustice: PFAS Provisions in NDAA “Wholly Inadequate” to Protect People’s Health

National environmental law organization decries shortcomings in bill’s approach to harmful chemicals
Drinking water

Drinking water is one of the most common routes of exposure to PFAS. PFAS have polluted the tap water of at least 16 million people in 33 states and Puerto Rico, as well as groundwater in at least 38 states.

Yipeng Ge / Getty Images
December 11, 2019
Washington, D.C. —

The national environmental law firm Earthjustice decried inadequate legislative efforts to protect people from toxic PFAS substances in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Earthjustice sought a strong legislative solution that would require PFAS chemicals to be deemed “hazardous substances,” in turn requiring chemical companies to pay billions of dollars in damages they have caused with their irresponsible production of toxic chemicals that do not easily breakdown in the environment. The organization also pushed for provisions that would have required the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set an enforceable drinking water standard under the Safe Drinking Water Act and that would provide for critical testing and monitoring of drinking water across the country. These provisions were not included in the final legislation.

While the bill adds some PFAS chemicals to the Toxics Release Inventory, we are disappointed that the whole toxic class of PFAS were not added. As a result of Congress’s failure to truly grapple with this crisis, communities will continue to be in the dark when many PFAS chemicals are released in their neighborhoods.

The following is a statement from Christine Santillana, Associate Legislative Counsel, leading federal legislative advocacy on PFAS for Earthjustice:

“People across the country are suffering from cancers and myriad diseases, and giving birth to children with serious health problems and weakened immune systems from exposure to PFAS. These toxic chemicals do not break down and can stay in the body and the natural environment for decades. Yet, Congress failed to adopt the kind of comprehensive solution we need to get these chemicals out of our drinking water and away from families and workers, and to ensure that companies clean up the mess they knowingly created.

“Congress can and should do better. When Congress returns in January, we expect leadership to move comprehensive legislation forward that will meaningfully address PFAS contamination. People’s lives are at stake.”

Every day that PFAS chemicals remain unregulated is another day people live with cancer, children suffer from weakened immune systems, and communities live with more questions than answers about the poisons in their air, water, and food. Congressional leaders must honor their commitments, act swiftly, and enact strong legislation that ensures the chemical industry can no longer dump these chemicals without consequence.

Background on PFAS:

PFAS are man-made chemicals found in everyday products and are largely manufactured and used by chemical companies whose facilities discharge these toxic chemicals into our air and water. Even firefighting foam contains PFAS, which is a major source of contamination in ground water on military bases. Every time the foam is used — occurring frequently for training purposes — these toxic and persistent chemicals are released into the environment. They’ve been linked to cancer, impaired fetal development, decreased birth weight and other significant harms, and have contaminated drinking water sources across the country.

Read More:

Breaking Down Toxic PFAS Chemicals (Earthjustice)

Toxic Taps (Earthjustice)

Contacts

Phil LaRue, Earthjustice, (202) 797-4317

We're the lawyers for the environment, and the law is on our side.