Please invest in Our Daily Planet today, by making a one time or monthly contribution.
We do not charge our readers a subscription fee for our content. We want to continue to grow our readership, particularly among millennials and public servants. Voluntary contributions from readers will help us employ interns and freelance journalists, expand our content, and reach a larger audience.
On Tuesday, September 29, Gavin Newsom signed into law a measure that bans a class of over 4,000 toxic chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from firefighting foams due to their impacts on human health.
This ban came weeks before a peer-reviewed study by scientists at the Environmental Working Group estimated thatmore than 200 million Americans could have PFAS in their drinking water at a concentration of 1 part per trillion, or ppt, or higher.
Why This Matters: At least 7.5 million Californians—1 in 5— have PFAS in their drinking water, due in part to firefighting foams being used to stop wildfires. PFAS does not break down in the environment, spreads quickly, and bioaccumulates (which gives it its “forever chemical” moniker). As such, there is more than 1 ppt of PFAS detected in California’s drinking water sources signaling a need for further regulation and understanding of this family of chemicals.
It’s created by joining carbon and fluorine, one of the strongest bonds that can be made in organic chemistry.
It’s that bond that’s at the root of why PFAS chemicals are used to make everyday items resistant to moisture, heat, and stains.
Some of the most commonly used PFAS chemicals, like PFOS and PFOA (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid and perfluorooctanoic acid) have long half-lives, earning them the moniker “the forever chemical.”
Even minuscule amounts of PFAS can have devastating consequences on the human body—the chemicals have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, reproductive and immune system harm, thyroid disease, and more.
The people most under threat from PFAS? Firefighters. A study last year found that firefighters using PFAS foams had “unacceptably” high levels of PFAS in their blood —an unacceptable predicament given that firefighters are often from vulnerable populations, like inmates who are already risking their lives to put out wildfires for only a few dollars a day in compensation.
Luckily, there are non-PFAS foams in use around the world. A study published last spring showed that there were over 100 PFAS-free foams meeting internationally accepted certifications.
California is joining both states and the Department of Defense in phasing out PFAS foams. Last year, Congress voted to discontinue PFAS foams in military firefighting foams by 2024. Likewise in 2018, Congress ordered the Federal Aviation Administration, to ban airports from using PFAS foams to fight fires. However, no federal standard exists for regulating the use of PFAS or for ongoing testing of water. As such states have had to lead the charge on such rulemaking.
Eliminating PFAS from drinking water will be a complicated process. Researchers are developing technology to help this process but the federal government must do its part in supporting and funding an adequate national response.
As California’s drought conditions are worsening, Nestle is pumping millions of gallons of water from the San Bernardino forest. State water officials have drafted a cease-and-desist order to force the company to stop overpumping from Strawberry Creek, which provides drinking water for about 750,000 people.
The ice-out date for Maine’s Lake Auburn is now three weeks earlier than it was two centuries ago, the Portland Press Herald reports, and other lakes across New England show similar trends. Climate change is not good for ice, and that includes Maine’s lakes that freeze over every winter.
Why This Matters: A disrupted winter with lakes that “defrost” earlier has multiple knock-on effects for freshwater: in addition to harming fish in lakes, the resulting large cyanobacteria algae blooms that form can be harmful to human health.
by Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer Drought conditions cover 85% of Mexico as lakes and reservoirs dry up across the country. Mexico City is experiencing its worst drought in 30 years, and the reservoirs and aquifers are so depleted that some residents don’t have tap water. The capital city relies on water pumped in from […]
Our Daily Planet is your daily dose of the stories shaping our world and the ways that you can take action. From the climate crisis to the protection of biodiversity, if these issues matter to you then please subscribe & stay informed!
Your privacy is Important! We promise never to use your email address to send you spam or advertisements.