This week Senator Michael Moore (D-Millbury) and Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton) sent a letter to Attorney General Maura Healey requesting that legal action be taken against the companies which are responsible for contaminating the Commonwealth with PFAS chemicals.
PFAS, also known as per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, come from a family of man-made chemicals that pose a threat to both residents and the environment of the Commonwealth. They have been nicknamed as “forever chemicals” given their inability to break down in both the human body and the environment. These chemicals are often found in; food packaging materials, cleaning products, paints, firefighter foams, carpets and furniture protective materials and many other items.
These chemicals are known to have several adverse effects on one’s health. According to the EPA, contamination from PFAS may result in; low infant birth weights, adverse effects on the immune system, cancer and thyroid hormone disruption.
Many companies have been known to use PFAS chemicals, however the three most widely known to use them in their manufacturing are 3M, DuPont and Chemour. According to the Environmental Working Group, these companies were aware of the serious health risks associated with exposure to PFAS. Because of the widespread use of PFAS across an abundance of industries, many people have been exposed and unknowingly consumed these chemicals.
“If these companies were aware of the public health and safety hazards associated with producing these chemicals, and then continued to do so, they must be held accountable” said Senator Moore. “They have put the people and the environment of the Commonwealth at risk with only their own personal gain mind. It is important that we take legal action to show these manufacturers that we will no longer allow them to put people and environment at risk.”
Other states have already filed lawsuits against these multinational corporations for the contamination of their environments. The most recent lawsuit comes from Michigan.
“Once PFAS is in your body, it doesn’t come out. And once it’s in your water supply at dangerous levels, it’s likely you’ll need to find a new water supply” said Senator Comerford. “As Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health, I am very concerned about the public health impacts of this emerging PFAS crisis- and the companies that knowingly contributed to this crisis must be held accountable.”
A degree of action has already been taken in response the threat of contamination, as the Baker and Polito administration’s $74.2 million supplemental budget includes $4.2 million for investments into clean drinking water. In addition, the Governor’s House 2 budget includes funding for the Department of Environmental Protection to support the hiring of personnel dedicated to addressing PFAS contamination. It also requests $1.2 million for the Department of Public Health for inspections and testing of bottled water and food supplies for PFAS contamination.
However, is likely that the cost of addressing this issue will increase, putting an unnecessary financial burden on the Commonwealth and its municipalities. It is therefore more prudent to have the companies who profited off this contamination pay for the damages that they have created.