Energy & Environment

Sanders introduces bill to clean up of toxic ‘forever chemicals’

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A trio of senators led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced a bill Wednesday designed to stem the spread of a cancer-linked chemical that has leached into the water supply.

The Preventing Future American Sickness (PFAS) Act goes after a class of chemicals that uses the same abbreviation and is used in products ranging from raincoats to nonstick cookware.

PFAS substances have been called “forever” chemicals due to their persistence in the body and the environment, and cities are facing mounting bills as they seek to remove the substance from their water.

The Environmental Working Group, which tracks the spread of the chemicals, has found contamination in ground or drinking water in at least 1,400 sites across every state but Hawaii. 

The legislation would designate PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances, opening avenues to force PFAS manufacturers to foot the bill for cleanup efforts.

It would also allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to offer cleanup grants to entities looking to remove PFAS substances from drinking water.

“Hundreds of communities across the country are dealing with toxic PFAS contamination in their drinking water. It is unconscionable that huge corporations like DuPont have, for decades, concealed evidence of how dangerous these compounds are in order to keep profiting at the expense of human health,” Sanders said in a statement. 

“Congress must pass this legislation to put an end to corporate stonewalling and criminal behavior and tackle this public health crisis. It is not a radical idea to demand that when people in the world’s richest country turn on their taps, the water they drink is free of toxic chemicals,” he added.

Sanders’s bill, sponsored alongside Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), is the second major effort to address PFAS substances to be introduced after measures placed in the must-pass defense policy bill were largely stripped from the legislation.

The House has already passed broad PFAS legislation, but it is expected to face an uphill battle in the Senate given its inclusion of a measure that would require the EPA to set a mandatory drinking water standard for PFAS substances — a feature that contributed to the demise of the defense negotiations.

Sanders’s bill skirts that controversial territory, focusing much of its efforts on other avenues to control PFAS substances.

The bill bans the use of PFAS chemicals in food packaging as well as incineration of the substance, which can lead to air pollution.

Tags Bernie Sanders Ed Markey Jeff Merkley PFAS
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