Senate bill prods EPA on PFAS contamination

PFAS contamination has been found in communities across Alaska. Image:Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation

A bill filed in the U.S. Senate Friday would force the Environmental Protection Agency to classify the pollutants known as PFAS as hazardous under the Superfund clean-up law.

PFAS are a class of chemicals used in firefighting foam and a range of consumer products, from non-stick pans and to rain gear. They don’t easily breakdown in the environment and are persistent in groundwater. The chemicals have been discovered in more than a dozen Alaska communities, particularly in water wells.

PFAS are associated with hormone interference and a higher cancer risk, but research on the health effects is sparse.

The bipartisan bill would make polluted sites eligible for Superfund clean-up money and allow the government to hold polluters financially responsible. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is one of 20 co-sponsors.

PFAS are still in use today. They add water- and stain-resistance to fabrics and even food packaging. Manufacturers have agreed to stop using two types of them. Some are phasing them out entirely and others are switching to forms of PFAS they consider safer.