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BALTIMORE -- In the last year, the Maryland Department of the Environment has uncovered widespread drinking water contamination from per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, more commonly known as PFAS, and issued their first fish consumption advisory due to PFAS contamination in Piscataway Creek. The Threat of “Forever Chemicals,” a new report released Thursday by Maryland PIRG Foundation, recommends that policymakers take a comprehensive approach to the threat from PFAS by regulating and restricting the entire class of chemicals, establishing health-protecting limits for PFAS in water and holding the chemical industry accountable for the damage PFAS have caused.
“When I give my toddlers a drink of water, there’s a very good chance they are being exposed to these toxic chemicals,” explained Maryland PIRG Foundation director Emily Scarr. “In the 21st century, no parent should have to worry that our water is toxic.”
Manufacturers apply PFAS to a wide variety of products -- including coatings for non-stick pans, food packaging, rugs, carpets, outdoor apparel, firefighting foam and electronics -- because they repel oil and water. Their usage is so widespread in our homes and communities that nearly every American has these chemicals in their blood. The Threat of “Forever Chemicals” reports that even very low levels of exposure to PFAS are linked to a range of health problems, including kidney cancer, reproductive risks, reduced vaccine response and more.
The report documents known contamination in Maryland’s drinking water, seafood, and waterways.
- Many drinking water sources in Maryland are contaminated with PFAS. In 2019, the Maryland Department of the Environment tested for contamination at water treatment plants that provide drinking water to 70% of Maryland’s population and found approximately 75% of the samples had quantifiable levels of the PFAS they tested for.
- PFAS contaminate groundwater in Maryland. Much PFAS contamination at military sites in Maryland is traceable to the use of firefighting foam. PFAS from firefighting foam leach into shallow groundwater and then potentially flow into deeper aquifers or nearby rivers and streams.
- PFAS contaminate seafood in Maryland. Testing of striped bass, crabs and oysters from the Potomac River and St. Inigoes Creek in southern Maryland found nine different types of PFAS.
“It is alarming to know that we have no protection against PFAS chemicals in our drinking water,” said Scarr. “It’s time for Maryland to join states across the country that are turning off the tap on toxic ‘forever chemicals.’ We need to protect our families’ health and hold polluting industries accountable for cleaning up the mess they’ve made.”
Maryland PIRG Foundation is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being.
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