Stop Toxic PFAS

To protect water and health, the Governor needs to set strong limits for PFAS in our water and clean up contamination.

boy drinking glass of water
beerphotographer | Adobe Stock

Take Action

The Maryland Department of Environment has found toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” in some of Maryland’s drinking water. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there is no safe level of some PFAS in drinking water and exposure to PFAS chemicals, even in small amounts over time, has been linked to serious health effects including cancer, thyroid disruption and reduced vaccine response.

We’re calling on the Governor to protect our families by establishing strict limits for PFAS in waterways and drinking water and to hold polluting industries accountable for the environmental and public health damage they have caused. 

The “forever chemicals”

PFAS have been given the nickname “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in our bodies or in the environment. So the more they get used, the more they build up and the bigger the risk they pose to our health. This is particularly concerning for our kids who could be exposed to these chemicals for decades to come.

The Problem with PFAS

What are PFAS?

Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, more commonly known as PFAS, are a class of chemicals that are used in manufacturing to make things greaseproof and water-resistant.

What are the health impacts of PFAS exposure?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to PFAS chemicals, even in small amounts over time, has been linked to serious health effects including cancer, thyroid disruption and reduced vaccine response.

What are PFAS used for?

PFAS  are used to make a wide variety of products water- and grease-resistant. They are in use in everything from raincoats and food packaging to carpets and cookware. They have also been used by the military and firefighters.

How are we exposed to PFAS?

PFAS chemicals can be discharged into our waterways during the manufacture of products and leach from these products, ending up in our food and water, and ultimately our bodies. This has led to water contamination in Maryland and across the country. In fact, the Maryland Department of Environment has found PFAS in 75% of the water treatment plants they have tested. We also know of contamination in and around more than a dozen military sites in the state and in some seafood.

Protecting children and families from PFAS exposure

States and industries are moving away from using these chemicals. Earlier this year, Maryland passed a new law to ban their use in food packaging and rugs and carpets and to switch to safer alternatives in firefighting foam. The military also has a plan to phase out their use. These are critical steps to stopping contamination, but now we need to clean up our water supply.

Maryland has no enforceable limit for PFAS contamination nor mandatory testing for PFAS in water, and unless we hold the polluting industries accountable for the environmental and public health damage the chemical industry has caused, Marylanders will be left to foot the bill for PFAS cleanup and public health costs related to PFAS exposure.

The manufacturing and use of these chemicals have created widespread contamination that is extremely difficult to clean up and will create health risks for years.

We’re calling on the Governor to:

  • Protect our families by establishing strong, health protective limits for PFAS in waterways and drinking water.
  • Routinely test for contamination in our waterways and drinking water and clean up contamination.
  • Hold polluting industries accountable for the public health and environmental harm they have caused.
Maryland PIRG Director Emily Scarr, with legislators, firefighters and the family of George "Walter" Taylor as Gov. Hogan signs the George "Walter" Taylor Act into law. The new law will stop the use of PFAS chemicals in food packaging and rugs and carpets and to shift to safer alternatives in firefighting foam.

Tackling PFAS contamination long term

Ultimately, we need to stop using PFAS completely.

We also need stronger federal action on PFAS and to update our chemical regulations to ensure chemicals don’t make it to the market unless and until they are proven safe. To get there, we’ll need to win enough hearts and minds to the point of view that just because a chemical seems useful doesn’t mean it’s safe. That’s one more reason why our work to raise awareness and get people involved matters so much right now.

Protecting public health for 50 years

Over the past 50 years, Maryland PIRG and our national network have been leaders in protecting public health from exposure to toxic chemicals in our communities and drinking water.

We’ve helped eliminate toxic chemicals from art supplies and baby products, advocated for cleanup of toxic waste sites, and won toxics right-to-know laws.

Most recently, in Maryland we passed the George “Walter” Taylor Act to stop the use of PFAS chemicals in food packaging and rugs and carpets and to shift to safer alternatives in firefighting foam. We also helped pass the Family and Firefighter Protection Act to ban the use of toxic and ineffective flame-retardant chemicals in children’s products, furniture and mattresses. And we won a law to require all Maryland schools to test for and remediate lead in school drinking water.

Topics
Authors

Emily Scarr

State Director, Maryland PIRG

Emily directs strategy, organizational development, research, communications and legislative advocacy for Maryland PIRG. Emily has helped win small donor public financing in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, Montgomery County, and Prince George's County. She has played a key role in establishing new state laws to to protect public health by restricting the use of antibiotics on Maryland farms, require testing for lead in school drinking water and restrict the use of toxic flame retardant and PFAS chemicals. Emily also serves on the Executive Committees of the Maryland Fair Elections Coalition and the Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working. Emily lives in Baltimore City with her husband, kids, and dog.

Find Out More