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RELEASE: The time to protect public health from toxic PFAS is now 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, June 25, 2024

CONTACT:
Deirdre Cummings, Legislative Director, MASSPIRG, dcummings@masspirg.org, 978-201-6093
Alison Kenney, Communications Director, Office of state Rep. Kate Hogan, Alison.kenney@mahouse.gov, 617.722.2600
Ashley Benson, Director of Operations & Community Engagement, Office of state Sen. Julian Cyr, Ashley.Benson@masenate.gov, 617-722-1570

Broad coalition speaks to the need for urgent legislative action in Massachusetts

BOSTON – At a State House briefing on Tuesday, attendees heard about the harmful effects of PFAS contamination from lawmakers, firefighters and municipal, public health and environmental leaders, as well as Massachusetts residents whose water has been contaminated by the so-called ‘forever chemicals.’ Massachusetts State Representative Kate Hogan and State Senator Julian Cyr also shared details about legislation (An Act to protect Massachusetts public health from PFAS) that aims to clean up existing PFAS contamination and prevent future contamination in the Commonwealth

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of chemicals used to make products stain proof, water resistant and nonstick. Toxic even at very low levels, these chemicals increase risk of cancers, immunosuppression, liver disease and more.

“PFAS are causing real harm,” said Joanne Skokan, of Nantucket, whose well water tested at over 5 times the legal limit for PFAS. “Some of the houses in our neighborhood had PFAS levels that were 30 times the limit. We drank the water for years, we are all worried about the health impacts on ourselves and our children.”

When products containing PFAS are manufactured and disposed of, PFAS seeps into the soil, groundwater and drinking water. In Massachusetts, at least 171 public water systems in 96 cities and towns, and many private wells, have exceeded the state’s legal limit for PFAS.

State Rep. Kate Hogan (Stow) and state Sen. Julian Cyr (Cape and Islands) have filed a bill that aims to phase out the use of PFAS in many products including food packaging, childrens’ products, firefighter protective gear, personal care items and many other products. The bill also restricts industry discharges of PFAS, the spread of PFAS-containing sludge on farmland and sets up a fund to help communities test and treat PFAS contamination in drinking water, soil and groundwater.

“The bill that Sen. Cyr and I filed is a thoughtful, evidence-based response to PFAS contamination in Massachusetts. This legislation makes our Commonwealth safer and builds upon existing efforts to address PFAS contamination and advances the unanimously approved recommendations from the Legislature’s PFAS Interagency Task Force, which we led,” said Representative Kate Hogan (D-Stow). “We have worked extensively to gather a healthy consensus on this bill and early drafts have been strengthened through input from our environmental advocates, public safety experts, business stakeholders and the scientific community. It is time to join all the other states in the Northeast in remediating and regulating these ubiquitous ‘forever’ chemicals.”

“The ubiquity of PFAS in our environment and consumer products means that we must act now — what we do today will have significant effects on our environment and health in the years to come,” said Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro). “The legislation that Speaker Pro Tempore Hogan and I filed is the culmination of hundreds of hours of work, the learned testimony of scores of experts, and the all-important contributions of the public coming to grips with the reality of PFAS contamination. The Massachusetts PFAS Act is the essential step that will enable us to mitigate and reverse the deleterious impacts of PFAS on our health and environment.” 

“It’s critical to reduce exposures to PFAS because the evidence for PFAS harmful health effects is overwhelming, and health effects from PFAS exposures have been linked to nearly every part of our body. The situation we’re facing with PFAS is similar to lead – the more we learn, the more we see harmful health effects at lower levels of exposure, and increasingly it seems there may be no safe level for these chemicals,” said Dr. Laurel Schaider, Senior Scientist at Silent Spring Institute and principal investigator of the MA PFAS & Your Health Study.

“This bill will protect firefighters from occupational cancer by removing PFAS from our turnout gear and reducing our exposure to these harmful chemicals,” said Paul Jacques, Legislative Agent for the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts (PFFM). “We face many risks fighting fires, but worrying about the safety of our gear should not be one of them.” 

“We all want to provide clean and safe drinking water for our residents,” said Connor Read, Town Administrator in Easton and the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s representative on the PFAS Interagency Task Force. “But unless we stop the pollution and eliminate PFAS at the source, the problem will only get worse.” Easton designed and constructed three PFAS water treatment plants, at significant costs, after water testing showed elevated levels of PFAS. 

Tuesday’s event was co-sponsored by a broad coalition including MASSPIRG, Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts, Clean Water Action, Environmental League of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Sierra Club, Massachusetts Municipal Association, Massachusetts League of Women Voters, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, Community Action Works, Nantucket PFAS Action Group, Environment Massachusetts, Seaside Sustainability, and the Alliance for a Health Tomorrow.

“In an age of remarkable technological progress we should be able to make household products without putting our drinking water and health at risk,”said Deirdre Cummings, Legislative Director, MASSPIRG.

Link to local stories about the impact of PFAS contamination

Link to bipartisan list of 110 bill cosponsors