Raúl Torrez | Attorney General

Attorney General Balderas Urges Congress to Act on Toxic ‘Forever’ Chemicals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 31, 2019

Contact: Matt Baca (505) 270-7148

Albuquerque, NM—Attorney General Balderas today released a joint letter to Congress,
signed by a coalition of 21 State Attorneys General strongly urging the U.S. Senate and
House of Representatives to pass legislation to aid states in addressing the public health
threat of toxic “forever” chemicals. In the letter sent to Congressional leadership, the
coalition calls for action to help states address and prevent the growing dangers of a
family of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of
super-resilient, man-made chemicals contaminating drinking water and other media
throughout the nation. Additionally, the Attorneys General urged Congress to provide
financial assistance to help state and local governments offset the high cost burden of
cleaning up drinking water supplies
“As public officials, we must all do everything within our power to protect the health, safety,
and welfare of New Mexican families, and so I am calling on Congress to act immediately
to address this environmental crisis,” said Attorney General Balderas. “I will continue to
pursue environmental protection and justice for our communities in the courts, but our
laws must be changed to increase these protections.”
The two most studied types of PFAS contaminants are perfluorooctane sulfonic
acid/perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic
acid/perflurooctanoate (PFOA). PFAS chemicals resist degradation in the environment
and accumulate in the body. Those contaminants are also linked to serious adverse
health effects in humans and animals. Human health effects associated with exposure to
PFOA include kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, liver damage, and
preeclampsia; exposure to PFOS is associated with immune system effects, changes in
liver enzymes and thyroid hormones, and other conditions.
Across the country, PFAS contamination is most often associated with military bases,
firefighting training centers, civilian airports, and industrial facilities. PFAS chemicals tend
to be persistent in the environment and have been used for decades as ingredients in
firefighting foam. Some states with significant PFAS contamination are currently
spending tens of millions of dollars to address the contamination in public drinking water
systems, and to investigate numerous areas and sources of potential contamination.
While both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have advanced legislation that
addresses issues related to PFAS contamination, the Attorneys General urge Congress
to deal with “the most urgent legislative needs” of states as they work on a final agreement
on this legislation. These urgent needs, based on states’ firsthand experience, include:
• Designating certain PFAS chemicals as “hazardous substances” under the federal
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
(CERCLA), otherwise known as “Superfund.” Such designation is a key to cleaning
up some of the most dangerous PFAS-contaminated sites in the country, including
U.S. Department of Defense sites and so-called “orphan” sites, where the responsible
parties have not been identified or located, or have simply failed to act.
• Adding the entire class of PFAS chemicals to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory
(TRI), which requires certain industrial facilities to report annually the amount of
specific toxic chemicals released into the environment. This would provide critical
information about new potential sources of these chemicals, as well as the areas of
potential contamination.
• Providing funding for remediation of PFAS-contaminated drinking water supplies –
particularly those in disadvantaged communities, where many face severe water
affordability issues. Municipalities struggling to afford the high costs associated with
cleaning up PFAScontamination in turn may raise water rates on local residents.
• Prohibiting the use and storage of firefighting foam containing PFAS at military
bases and other federal facilities as soon as possible and in the meantime, providing
immediate protective measures, especially when firefighting foam is used.
• Providing medical screening of PFAS exposure for appropriate personnel and
members of the public, including but not limited to firefighters.
Joining Attorney General Balderas in the letter are the Attorneys General of California,
Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Guam, Hawai’i, Illinois, Iowa, Maine,
Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York,
Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington and Wisconsin.

 

Raul Torrez

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