The state’s task force on PFAS released its final report today, making dozens of recommendations to state officials for actions to address contamination from the so-called “forever chemicals.”
The PFAS Interagency Task Force, which is made up of legislators, state officials and other stakeholders, has been holding public hearings since last June to guide its recommendations. The final list of 30 recommendations includes increasing funding for detection and remediation of the chemicals, expanding regulation of PFAS, and supporting people who have become sick as a result of exposure the chemicals.
PFAS, short for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, are a group of thousands of manufactured chemicals that are known to increase the risk of cancer and other health problems. The chemicals are used in the production of some household products, food packaging and firefighting chemicals, and traces of them are now found in drinking water and soil, among other sources, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“The ubiquity of these forever chemicals cannot be understated,” state Sen. Julian Cyr, who co-chaired the task force, said in a press conference. “We see PFAS present in most Americans’ blood.”
Firefighters, in particular, have been affected by the presence of the chemicals in their equipment and work areas. The state’s largest firefighters’ union, Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, has been pushing for legislation to ban PFAS in firefighting equipment for years, said union president Rich MacKinnon.
“[PFAS] is contributing to firefighter occupational cancer, so we do what we can on every front to combat this epidemic within the fire service," he said.
The report does not lay out specific legislation to tackle the dozens of recommendations, but notes that 12 bills related to PFAS have already been filed this session. State Rep. Kate Hogan, who also co-chaired the task force, said legislators are planning to draft more bills as a result of the report.
“It’s a thorough approach at all levels,” Hogan said about the report at the press conference. “We’re looking at multiple legislative opportunities for the rest of this session … and we will certainly be coming forward with a full bill in the next session.”
A coalition of environmental and public health groups also praised the report in statement.
Kirstie Pecci, director of the zero waste project for the Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation, told GBH News that she was glad the legislature is working on PFAS issues and hopes for more actions soon.
“This is a great first step, but we need more specificity,” Pecci said. “We’re probably looking at not trying to decrease PFAS emissions but trying to wipe them out entirely. And that’s going to be very expensive and very difficult if not impossible sometimes. We need to be really aggressive.”