Read the full article by Scott Dance (The Baltimore Sun)
“Maryland regulators say they plan to test drinking water and Chesapeake Bay oysters for the presence of what are known as ‘forever chemicals’ — a step toward potential regulation of a class of harmful human-made substances that some fear are ubiquitous.
PFAS — per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances — are found in everything from stain-repellent fabrics and nonstick cookware to cleaning products and firefighting foams. They are spreading into soil and groundwater from landfills and firefighting training sites. And they can build up in humans and animals through exposure from drinking water, seafood and older consumer products.
The Maryland Department of the Environment is finalizing a plan to collect hundreds of samples from drinking water sources around the state amid growing concern from studies linking the chemicals to liver, kidney and reproductive dysfunction, high cholesterol levels and tumor growth.
They are also exploring a broader effort to test the bay and creatures within it, starting with oysters in St. Mary’s County waters. That testing is set to begin this month.
PFAS were first used in consumer products including nonstick pans and fabric protectants in the 1940s and 1950s, and by the 1970s were commonly used in foams to put out fires. But concerns about the chemicals building up in human bloodstreams did not enter public knowledge until the late 1990s. That alarm has grown because of more recent studies and even monitoring by concerned citizens.
In St. Inigoes Creek in St. Mary’s County, for instance, a sample that resident and environmental activist Pat Elder recently collected showed 14 different PFAS at a total concentration of about 1,900 parts per trillion — more than 27 times a ‘health advisory’ threshold the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set in 2016. The state now plans to do its own testing in the creek this month.
Elder is among a growing chorus pressing for more public awareness of and accountability for the pervasiveness of PFAS and the threat the chemicals pose. Several European countries are moving toward restrictions on production and use of PFAS, but there is no federal standard for ‘safe’ levels of the chemicals in drinking water, despite pressure from environmentalists and health advocates for the EPA to adopt one.
‘These are extraordinarily dangerous chemicals that don’t break down in nature,’ Elder said. ‘The Europeans are way ahead of us because they understand the impact on human health.’
There exists only limited data on the presence and quantities of more than 4,000 types of PFAS chemicals in Maryland and across the country. An oft-cited 2007 study found the chemicals in the bloodstreams of 98% of Americans sampled.
Ben Grumbles, Maryland’s environment secretary, said the state is taking the risk seriously, gathering the samples to determine where the chemicals may have collected, and whether they may be present in “unacceptable” amounts.
‘The key question is how prevalent they are,’ he said. ‘This is going to remain a priority’…”