Emerging Chemicals – Safety and Regulation – PFAS

My work on the EPA Local Government Advisory Committee and its three subcommittees, air and climate, water quality, and emerging chemicals has educated me on the federal decision process and ways to access technical assistance and funding for Albemarle.

The Healthy Communities workgroup has focused on emerging chemicals in process for upcoming federal regulation. The priority focus in 2021-2022 has been the PFOA PFAS family of chemicals which have been found to have serious health risks for humans and the environment. These chemicals are all around us and great care must be taken to avoid them in everyday life.

BUT the most important aspect for local governments is to avoid purchasing materials with PFAS. In addition to plastic bags, waterproof raingear and odor proof clothing, synthetic turf playing fields contain PFAS. Risk prevention must be primary: for the health of County residents, for County finances to pay for removal and disposal as federal regulation takes effect, and for the contamination of drinking water here and for communities downstream.

In 2022 PFAS contamination was discovered in the drinking water reservoir in Roanoke County. The local government will spend at least $13.5 million to clean this toxin out of the reservoir. Albemarle MUST avoid a similar fate.

“Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) include over 9,000 man-made chemicals, which have been frequently used in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) used to fight petroleum fires, and consumer and industrial products to resist grease, oil, and water since the 1940’s. However, they are commonly referred to as “forever chemicals”, since they persist in the environment and human body, building up over time and increasing the risk of a myriad of adverse health effects, including PFAS cancer risks, as well as liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression, and cancer.”

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