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Comprehensive PFAS regulation bill passed by U.S. House

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

The U.S. House has approved a comprehensive bill to regulate and control a class of chemicals known as PFAS.

The bill would require the U.S. EPA to designate two of the most common PFAS as hazardous substances.

It would also require the EPA to set a national drinking water standard for those two chemicals -- and study whether other PFAS should be added later.

Rebecca Meuninck is with the Ecology Center.

She said the bill will go far to help Michiganders and people all over the country protect themselves from the health risks of PFAS. 

"You really can't look at a map of Michigan and not find a neighborhood near you that has some contamination, unfortunately," she said.

PFAS are often called "forever chemicals," because they can persist in the environment for hundreds of years.

Meuninck says the risks of PFAS exposure could be greater for vulnerable populations, like people with immune system disorders, as well as fetuses, infants, and young children.

"They may have exposures that start at a very young age and continue for quite some time if they're drinking contaminated water," she said.

Some kinds of PFAS have been linked to certain cancers, immune system problems, and conditions that can contribute to heart disease, like high cholesterol.

The bill allows companies that violate any new standard to be fined and criminally prosecuted, but not for five years after the adoption of the standard.  

A consumer protection aspect of the law would allow companies that make products that do not contain PFAS to label them as such under the EPA's Safer Choice program.

Two of the main sponsors of the bill were Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell and Republican Congressman Fred Upton.  

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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