WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez today joined a bipartisan group of senators in demanding the Trump Administration immediately release the results of a study regarding the safety levels of certain chemicals in drinking water that has reportedly being blocked by EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt. The letter also calls on EPA to immediately update their water safety policies in a manner that will protect the health and well-being of the American people.
A January 2018 Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) study reportedly found exposure to Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)—a class of toxic industrial chemicals used in manufacturing that have been linked to a variety of cancers and serious health conditions—at levels lower than previously known to pose a danger is hazardous to human health, but that the study’s release has purportedly been blocked by the EPA.
“The EPA and other regulatory agencies must rely on the most up-to-date, factually-accurate information based on rigorous science to guide policy decisions and regulations designed to protect the health and well-being of our constituents,” the senators wrote in their letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “Given the wide use of PFAS and presence of these chemicals in communities across the U.S., it is critical that this report be released without delay and that EPA act immediately to update its guidelines to ensure Americans are informed of and protected from the danger of exposure to these toxins.”
The senators are demanding the agencies release the report, so local communities working to ensure their drinking water is safe have access to the best available science. While some amount of PFAS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are prevalent in most Americans, high concentrations are linked to cancer, a weakened immune system and low birth weights, among other health risks.
New Jersey is home to 1-in-10 of the 16 million Americans with drinking water contaminated by PFAS, according to a separate study by the Environmental Working Group and Northwestern University. Among the sites in New Jersey identified as sources PFAS contamination are Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Naval Weapons Station Earle in Colts Neck (Monmouth), Solvay Specialty Polymer and Arkema in West Deptford (Gloucester County), and DuPont's Chambers Works facility in Pennsville (Salem County). The DuPont site developed Teflon, a known PFAS used in non-stick cookware, while contamination at the military bases was blamed on toxic chemical-rich firefighting foam that is no longer used in training.
The bipartisan letter to the EPA and HHS demanding release of the HHS study was cosigned by: Sens. Menendez, Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Michael Bennett (D-Colo.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.).
Full text of the letter is below and can be downloaded here:
The Honorable Scott Pruitt
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
The Honorable Alex Azar
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20201
Dear Administrator Pruitt and Secretary Azar:
We write to express our deep concern with recent news reports that individuals within the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are blocking the release of results from a study completed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) regarding Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). The results of this study are critical to protecting the health and well-being of communities across the country, and it is imperative that the results of this study be released immediately.
As you are aware, PFAS are a class of toxic chemicals used in manufacturing that have been linked to a variety of cancers and serious health conditions. According to recent media reports, ATSDR has been working on a report on the health effects of PFAS, which reportedly shows that exposure to these chemicals at levels lower than previously known pose a danger to human health – in particular the health of more vulnerable populations like pregnant women and the immunocompromised. We understand that this report was finalized in January 2018, but Politico has reported that there are “internal emails showing EPA officials working to block the report.” This is unacceptable.
The EPA and other regulatory agencies must rely on the most up-to-date, factually-accurate information based on rigorous science to guide policy decisions and regulations designed to protect the health and well-being of our constituents. Given the wide use of PFAS and presence of these chemicals in communities across the U.S., it is critical that this report be released without delay and that EPA act immediately to update its guidelines to ensure Americans are informed of and protected from the danger of exposure to these toxins. We are especially concerned since PFAS have been discovered in community water systems as well as on multiple Department of Defense installations. To this point, many local officials, as well as the Department of Defense have been working off the voluntary EPA guidelines issued in 2016; however, we need to ensure that all parties are working off the most up-to-date information to maintain a safe water supply.
Several of our colleagues have written to you since the existence of the report became known requesting information and seeking to review the report matter. We write to echo their concerns, and to urge you to publish the findings of this study and update EPA policies related to PFAS in a way that will adequately protect the health and well-being of our constituents without delay.
Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.
September 16, 2021
September 15, 2021