News Release

Statement: New state water sampling shows PFAS contamination in drinking water

State not doing enough to protect public health
for Immediate Release

BALTIMORE – The Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) announced on Thursday a new round of sampling results for 18 PFAS chemicals in public drinking water throughout the state. The results found detectable levels of PFOA and PFOS, two types of PFAS with the longest history of use, in 43% of the water samples tested, and in more than half of aquifers that are not fully isolated from ground or surface water. Previous testing found PFOA and PFOS in 75% of the samples from water treatment plants that serve 70% of Maryland’s population.

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of over 9,000 toxic chemicals that are used to make a wide variety of consumer products – such as food packaging, rugs and carpets, clothing and firefighting foam – water and grease resistant. PFAS are often called “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in bodies or in the environment. 

Exposure to these chemicals, even in small amounts over time, has been linked to serious health effects including kidney and liver disease, developmental issues and cancer. Their usage is so widespread in our homes and communities that nearly every American has these chemicals in their blood. 

Earlier this month, the Maryland General Assembly and Gov. Larry Hogan passed the George “Walter” Taylor Act with unanimous bipartisan support that will stop the use of PFAS in food packaging ang rugs and carpets and shift to safer alternatives for firefighting foam.

In response, Maryland PIRG Director Emily Scarr issued the following statement:

“This new data is alarming because there is no safe level of PFAS in our drinking water. Perhaps even more shocking is that we have such weak protection against these toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in our water. We are disappointed that Gov. Hogan has not directed the Department of the Environment to take bolder action on PFAS contamination. It’s time for Maryland to join states across the country that are picking up the slack where the EPA has failed by setting strong restrictions on PFAS in water and holding polluting industries accountable for cleaning up the mess they’ve made. The time to act on PFAS pollution is now. Our children and grandchildren are counting on it.”

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Maryland PIRG is a statewide, non-partisan, non-profit, citizen-funded public interest advocacy organization with grassroots members across the state. For fifty years we’ve stood up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society. This includes a long history of protecting Marylanders from exposure to toxic chemical exposure.

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