Attorney General Urges Congress to Pass Strong Legislation to Address Contamination from Dangerous PFAS Chemicals

Sacramento, California - California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, as part of a coalition of 22 attorneys general, Tuesday filed a letter in support of Congress’ efforts to pass legislation addressing the dangers of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). In the letter, the attorneys general provide recommendations to address PFAS contamination and urge that any new law not impair states’ protection of their own communities.

PFAS are a group of thousands of chemicals, including perfluorooctnoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), widely used on consumer products including nonstick cookware, water- and wrinkle-resistant clothing, and food packaging, as well as in firefighting foam. PFAS chemicals do not break down in the environment and as a result, these “forever chemicals” accumulate in human bodies. PFAS chemicals have been shown to cause adverse health effects including developmental defects, kidney cancer, liver damage, and impacts on the thyroid and immune system. It is estimated that 99% of Americans have detectable levels of PFAS in their bloodstream.

“Millions of products are tainted with dangerous PFAS chemicals, which end up in the water we drink and the food we eat,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The prevalence of these chemicals means that addressing the damage they cause, and doing it quickly, is that much more crucial. We encourage Congress to pass legislation to address the dangers of PFAS and to repair the destruction these chemicals have done to our environment and the health of our communities.”

Congress is currently considering multiple pieces of legislation that address PFAS exposure/contamination issues. In the letter, the attorneys general assert that legislation to regulate PFAS chemicals should: 

  • Designate certain PFAS chemicals as “hazardous substances” under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA);
  • Fund cleanups of contaminated public water systems;
  • Include PFAS in the Toxic Release Inventory, which would allow for the tracing of contamination sources and knowledge of contaminated areas;
  • Require nationwide sampling for PFAS chemicals to be conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey;
  • Ban the use and storage of firefighting foam, a known source of PFAS contamination, at U.S. military bases and any other federal facilities; and
  • Provide medical screening for PFAS exposure of firefighting personnel and members of the community who may be impacted by PFAS contamination.

Attorney General Becerra has taken continued action to protect the public from the dangers of PFAS. On June 11, 2019, Attorney General Becerra filed a comment letter opposing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Draft Interim Recommendations for addressing groundwater contaminated with PFAS.

Joining Attorney General Becerra in the letter are the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Guam, Hawai’i, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.