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Mark Ruffalo brings fight against ‘forever chemicals’ to Capitol Hill

Greg Nash

Actor and activist Mark Ruffalo spoke at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday morning to draw attention to the threat from toxic so-called forever chemicals.

Ruffalo is starring in an upcoming movie, “Dark Waters,” in which he plays a lawyer who fought the DuPont chemical company in a class action lawsuit, eventually winning a settlement of more than $600 million in 2017 for thousands injured by a class of chemicals known as PFAS, which linger and contaminate water and food sources long after their initial use.

“‘Dark Waters’ is a story about bringing justice to communities that have been living with PFAS for decades,” Ruffalo said. “It is everywhere.”

“We’re in this incredible moment right now when we can actually do something about a chemical that has gone completely unregulated for 50 years,” he added. “We’re here today to make sure this chemical is finally regulated.” 

Ruffalo will also testify this afternoon before the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on the Environment, where he will press the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to put in place tougher regulations on forever chemicals.

Joining Ruffalo at Tuesday’s press conference was Robert Bilott, the lawyer whose story inspired “Dark Waters.” The two are launching the “Fight Forever Chemicals” campaign, which is being sponsored by the movie’s production company.

The original lawsuit was spurred by toxic runoff from a DuPont landfill into a creek, which a farmer believed was killing his cattle. Now, Bilott — and Ruffalo — are fighting for EPA action under the Safe Drinking Water Act on chemicals like those in the DuPont case.

The EPA says “there is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects,” but PFAS (or, Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) are not currently regulated at a federal level. The EPA also acknowledges that PFAS can be found in both food and drinking water.

Ruffalo and Bilott were joined at a Tuesday press conference by the co-chairmen of the bipartisan House PFAS Task Force, Reps. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.). Kildee represents Flint, Mich., known for a water crisis over lead contamination, and said he first met Ruffalo when the actor visited the town.

Kildee noted that Flint is not the only town in his district suffering from contaminated water. The community of Oscoda, Mich., “is still suffering from the PFAS contamination that was left behind” after the closure of an Air Force base in the town more than twenty years ago, Kildee said.

“This is really dangerous stuff,” he added. “The federal government and those chemical companies that created the problem have to be held accountable.”

Ruffalo pressed for congressional action.

“It’s time for a kind of revolution in our thinking, and in our policy and here [in] Washington, that takes the people and our needs and our health before the health and economic wealth of corporations,” he said. “Right now, it’s wildly backwards.

“Right now, the people are losing, and we have a major election coming up where this is on the ballot,” Ruffalo added. “It’s time for us to have a revolution of heart and spirit and look out for each other, and for our government to look out for us.”

This story was updated at 2:07 p.m.

Tags Brian Fitzpatrick Dan Kildee Mark Ruffalo PFAS Safe Drinking Water Act
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