‘Forever chemicals’ bill clears U.S. House

  • U.S. Rep Jim McGovern, D-Worcester. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/22/2021 3:34:48 PM

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to pass legislation backed by western Massachusetts representatives targeting the use of PFAS, known as “forever chemicals.”

“This bill is a major first step in the right direction” of protecting Americans from PFAS, said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, who voted in favor of the bill.

PFAS, or polyfluoroalkyl substances, are found in a variety of everyday items, including food containers, cookware, cosmetics, firefighter gear and upholstered furniture, and in high concentrations in industrial substances used at sites such as airports. Over 98% of Americans have a measurable level of PFAS in their blood, according to activist and research organization Environmental Working Group.

Once in the human bloodstream, PFAS can cause health issues such as certain types of cancer, liver disease, asthma,  immunosuppression, and developmental issues in children and infants.

Over 9,000 PFAS chemicals exist, and six are regulated in Massachusetts.

The legislation, the PFAS Action Act, would designate two PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances; set a deadline for the Environmental Protection Agency to make decisions about other PFAS chemicals; create grants to aid in cleanup and remediation efforts; and establishe stricter limits on PFAS usage, testing and reporting.

Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, also voted to pass the legislation.

“Too many children and families in western and central Massachusetts and across the country are being exposed right now to dangerous chemical contamination that can have devastating impacts on their health and well-being,” Neal said in a statement.

Despite known health impacts, “for too long, these chemicals have been allowed to linger in our communities as big corporations put their profits before people,” Neal said.

The legislation received bipartisan support in the House of Representatives and will next be considered by the U.S. Senate. 

McGovern said that in the event that the bill doesn’t pass the Senate, he is prepared to use his position as chair of the House Rules Committee to attach parts of the bill to “must-pass legislation” such as the National Defense Authorization Act.

“We’re going to do all we can to make sure that … it gets to the president’s desk,” McGovern said.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.

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