WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Congress is considering 13 bills designed to protect millions of Americans exposed to PFAS, a class of chemicals found to be contaminating drinking water sources.
A U.S. House of Representatives committee held its first hearing on the bills Wednesday.
“I can assure you that every congressional district has a PFAS contamination problem,” Erik Olsen, the health program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told lawmakers. “It just may not have been discovered yet.”
PFAS, which has been used in everything from Teflon to Scotchgard to foam used to fight jet fires, is a likely carcinogen also linked other illnesses including thyroid problems and hypertension during pregnancy. It has been found in ground and drinking water across the nation. A study shows Michigan has the highest number of contaminated sites, though it has also done the most extensive testing.
“Congress needs to treat this as a crisis because it is a crisis,” New York mother of three Emily Marpe said.
For her, she said, it’s too late.
“I’ve been diagnosed with thyroid disease. My daughter … now has a pediatric endocrinologist,” she said.
Brian Steglitz, the water treatment manager for Ann Arbor, Michigan, says his city was able to finance new infrastructure to filter out PFAS, but other areas may not be able to act without federal leadership.
“Really what we need to see is some movement and some action,” Steglitz said.
The 13 bills would set stricter standards for PFAS in drinking water, force the federal government to immediately clean up known contamination sites — many of which are around military bases — and provide federal aid to cities and states.
“We’re serious in a very bipartisan way about ridding these hazardous chemicals wherever they exist,” Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said.
But Rep. John Shimkus, R-Illinois, advised against rushing, saying there hasn’t been enough scientific study of PFAS effects to back up some of the sweeping reforms on the table.
Lawmakers from both parties say they hope to pass at least some of the 13 bills this year.