Biden Needs To Tackle PFAS

In the next four years, the newly-elected Biden administration has a mile-long to-do list and what will likely be a hostile Senate to wrestle with. Behind a pandemic, social injustice, economic hardship, and climate change issues lies a topic we can’t leave until later; PFAS.

Of the many harmful things done or left undone in the Trump administration, for us Michiganders, PFAS is near the top of the list. Promising to address PFAS and to arm the EPA with the ability to change acceptable limits and hold polluters accountable, it’s been four years of neglect and active interference. There’s some evidence that this White House went so far as to actively bury work by the EPA directed against PFAS. That has to stop, and it’s an effort House Democrats like Rep. Debbie Dingell, part of our Cancer Prevention Caucus, has put front and center.

Last week, Rep. Dingell and a number of experts joined an online conference to discuss PFAS and the necessary regulations to help protect our communities. Some of the priorities include establishing drastically lower limits on PFAS levels in water sources, working to eliminate non-essential PFAS from consumer products and food packaging and give the EPA the ability to recoup the money necessary to begin clean-ups from those who caused the contamination in the first place. Many of these measures were given lip service by the Trump administration, though absolutely nothing has come of it.

That has PFAS experts anxious, with Biden’s pledge to designate PFAS as a hazardous chemical and to enforce the Safe Drinking Water Act are encouraging but may not be on the list of things accomplished in the first one hundred days. Even that single important designation would accelerate the fight against PFAS and begin to reduce the risk of exposure for generations of Americans right away. Until now, all the hard work of that piece of 1974 legislation has been wasted when it comes to what might be the most pervasive environmental cancer risk in the country, if not the world.

Still, there’s reason to hope that a new administration will see the role the federal government will need to play in arming its national agencies with the regulatory power to get things done. It will also serve to lead by example, encouraging more states to put PFAS front and center of their focus and to work in environmental clean-up to programs designed to revive an economy that, at present, serves the more affluent while doing little to ensure the health and safety of the most vulnerable.

Starting today, we all need to remind our leaders just how important access to clean water is for all of us. Keep the conversation going; it’s not one that’s going away any time soon.

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