Read the full article by Pamela Miller (Juneau Empire)
“Long before coronavirus became a household word, Gustavus resident Kelly McLaughlin was raising her children, growing a garden and keeping chickens. After water testing in her community revealed high levels of contamination, McLaughlin and others organized for solutions to the growing public health problem caused by manufactured chemicals called PFAS.
PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are used in many household products such as Teflon and in industrial firefighting foams used at airports and military bases. PFAS have contaminated public drinking water supplies of millions of people around the world. They were first produced beginning in the 1940s by Dupont and 3M. PFAS are synthetic chemicals that don’t break down and therefore are known as “forever chemicals.” They are toxic at exceedingly low levels of exposure and are associated with adverse health effects including immune suppression, cancer and thyroid disruption.
On March 9, which now seems like a lifetime ago, McLaughlin and other members of the Gustavus PFAS Action Coalition and Alaska Community Action on Toxics traveled to Juneau. We hosted environmental attorney Robert Bilott to talk with legislators and participate in a public screening of the film “Dark Waters” starring actor Mark Ruffalo. The film tells the story of how PFAS chemicals came to be used in everyday household products and how Bilott fought for the rights of people whose drinking water was contaminated by Dupont.
Even on a snowy Southeast Alaska night, Juneauites filled one of the ballrooms in Centennial Hall for the movie screening and discussion afterward.
What is the Alaska connection? PFAS and similar chemicals have been used for decades in Alaska. The dispersive use of PFAS-based aqueous film forming foam used on military bases and airports has contaminated the drinking water of communities from the North Slope to Southeast Alaska. Bilott came to Alaska to help and his message was clear. PFAS are toxic, persistent, bioaccumulative and are a serious public health threat…”