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AG Nessel Urges Swift Senate Action to Improve Federal Standards Governing Toxic PFAS

LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined a coalition of 19 attorneys general from around the nation in urging the U.S. Senate's Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee to take action on federal health and environmental protections to address per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances - PFAS.  

Michigan is a national leader in responding to PFAS contamination and has established the multi-agency Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART) to identify contamination in the environment and protect Michigan residents from exposures.  Through MPART's work, Michigan has adopted enforceable PFAS standards for drinking water and groundwater, in addition to water quality standards for two of the most common PFAS, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS).  

"We are already hard at work in Michigan investigating and addressing PFAS contamination," said Nessel, "But our efforts here in Michigan will be strengthened by congressional action to regulate these harmful chemicals and fund needed research and study of their effects." 

Upon taking office, Attorney General Nessel initiated a PFAS Litigation Project to hold manufacturers of PFAS accountable for the damages from PFAS that ended up contaminating Michigan's environment. Litigation on behalf of the State was filed in 2020, seeking remedies for the contamination and injuries to Michigan's environment. A total of four lawsuits are currently pending.   

In a letter addressed to EPW leadership, the coalition argues that the serious dangers posed by PFAS, combined with the tens of millions of taxpayer dollars that coalition states are currently spending to protect residents from these dangers, call for swift congressional action.    

In their letter, the coalition is urging the EPW Committee to "pass or build on" the bipartisan PFAS Action Act of 2021, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in July. Specifically, the letter identifies several legislative priorities of the coalition states, including:  

  • Promoting the prompt and effective cleanup of PFAS by designating the chemicals as "hazardous substances" under the federal Superfund law,  
  • Protecting public health by designating PFAS as "hazardous air pollutants" under the federal Clean Air Act and prohibiting the unsafe incineration of the chemicals,  
  •  Protecting public health by establishing national drinking water standards for PFAS and controlling PFAS discharges,  
  • Providing funding for drinking water suppliers to reduce PFAS concentrations in public drinking water supplies,  
  • Providing funding to states to protect against and respond to PFAS contamination,  
  • Making medical screening available to all U.S. Department of Defense personnel and members of the public who may have been exposed to elevated levels of PFAS, and  
  • Prohibiting the use and limiting the storage of PFAS-containing firefighting foam at federal facilities.  

PFAS are a class of man-made chemicals that have one of the strongest bonds in chemistry.  They have been incorporated into countless consumer products, including  non-stick cookware; food packaging; and waterproof clothing. Firefighting foam containing PFAS has also been used for decades by the U.S. military, airports, industrial facilities, and local fire departments. PFAS are estimated to be detectable in the blood stream of 99 percent of the U.S. population.    

PFAS are extremely resistant to degradation in the environment and they build up, or bioaccumulate, in our bodies - that is why PFAS are known as "forever chemicals." Although scientific knowledge regarding PFAS is still developing, some PFAS are linked to serious adverse health effects in humans. Exposure to the two most studied types of PFAS are associated with kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, liver damage, immune system effects, and other adverse health outcomes.  

Joining Attorney General Nessel in sending the letter to the Senate EPW Committee are the attorneys general of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.