EDITORIAL: ‘Forever chemicals’ cause worry

EDITORIAL: ‘Forever chemicals’ cause worry

A new state task force will soon begin work on a plan to minimize the impact of a group of potentially dangerous industrial compounds known as “forever chemicals” on Connecticut residents. And Sen. Richard Blumenthal is pushing the federal Food and Drug Administration to limit those same contaminants, known as PFAS, in drinking water after they turned up in bottled water.

Blumenthal is concerned because many people have switched from tap water to bottled water to avoid adding toxins to their bodies.

While the public may be understandably fatigued to learn that yet another substance may be presenting a threat to their health, there is sufficient reason to be concerned about PFAS — and reason for state and federal agencies to become involved.

That’s because no acceptable level of PFAS has been established, even though this family of synthetic chemicals has been manufactured and used around the world since the 1940s. The EPA recommends drinking water not have more than 70 parts per trillion (ppt) of PFAS, but it is a recommendation, not a requirement. Blumenthal wants the FDA to set a standard for PFAS in drinking water.

“The risks that PFAS pose to Connecticut residents and the environment command our attention and prompt action,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a letter to state officials participating in the task force.

What brought this to public attention was an incident in June, when a toxic firefighting foam containing PFAS, stored at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, leaked into the Farmington River. But PFAS — known as “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in the environment — have leached into the water supply after years of use in a wide range of products including nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing and food packaging.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has said it will decide by the end of the year whether to set a standard for PFAS. The state task force is expected to present a plan by Oct. 1.

Both are hopeful signs, because the presence of PFAS in the environment calls for the immediate attention of both the federal and state governments.