Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing collaboration between PublicSource and Environmental Health News on PFAS contamination in Pennsylvania.
At a public hearing on Friday held by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection [DEP], experts from states, like New Jersey and Michigan, testified about a group of chemicals referred to as PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances).
Hundreds of sites across the country, including at least 20 in Pennsylvania, have been contaminated by PFAS.
PFAS chemicals have been used in hundreds of consumer products that repel water or oil, such as waterproof clothing and non-stick pans. But, so far the biggest contamination sites have been discovered around industrial sites and military bases that used fire-fighting foams containing PFAS. The biggest threat to the public, according health officials, is how these chemicals are leaching into the water supply.
Exposure to these chemicals, even at very low levels, is associated with a wide range of health impacts including cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis and birth defects. And, while it’s not clear if the chemicals are to blame, Pennsylvania residents who attended the hearing and live near PFAS-contaminated sites rattled off dozens of family members—and pets— who have struggled with cancers.
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