Read the full article by Ariana Brocious (Arizona Public Media)

“There is growing local and national concern about the chemicals known as PFAS, which have been found in several Tucson groundwater wells. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has launched a program to clean up the contamination plume in Tucson’s groundwater.

PFAS stands for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a group of chemicals that have been used for decades in a whole range of products. Their nearly indestructible qualities make them popular in things like nonstick pans, fast food packaging and stain-resistant materials. They are also present in some firefighting foam.

PFAS exist in the blood of most Americans. The chemicals, often called ‘forever chemicals’ because they don’t break down in the environment, accumulate in human bodies over time. They can cause serious health effects including cancer, thyroid and immune system problems.

David Andrews is a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group. He said that even though manufacturers and the government knew these compounds are harmful, regulation has been slow. In the early 2000s, the EPA did get several manufacturers to phase out the use of PFOA and PFOS, two of the chemicals known to be harmful to human health and the environment, but Andrews said their replacements might not be safer.

‘The concern is that the cumulative exposure — exposure to the replacements and the legacy contaminants — is actually making this crisis even worse,’ Andrews said.

Andrews said that contamination problems stemming from PFAS points to larger issues with regulation, as PFAS became widely used before proper safety data was shared with regulators.

In the last several years PFAS has become a national concern, partly because much of the contamination stems from military bases and airports, where PFAS-laden firefighting foam has been used for decades. Tucson is a prime example…”