U.S. House Will Vote on PFAS Regulation


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | July 19, 2021

PFAS chemicals, often referred to as forever chemicals, which have been found in many places in Iowa, are not currently regulated federally. Members of Congress, along with Biden administration officials at a conference on Wednesday explained that they are trying to start regulation for toxic chemicals found in water, like PFAS, starting with a vote in the U.S. House this week. 

Two representatives from Michigan, Reps. Debbie Dingell and Dan Kildee, said that House Democratic leaders will introduce the PFAS Action Act of 2021. This has the goal of reducing Americans’ exposure to the toxic chemicals in air, water and consumer products.

Rep. Dingell’s bill would define PFOA and PFOS chemicals as hazardous substances, which would make it so federal cleanup would have to occur. This clean up would likely start on military bases. 

There are currently no EPA regulations that restrict manufacturers and companies from releasing PFAS chemicals into the environment.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the agency is currently in the process of regulating PFOS and PFOA.

“We recognize PFAS is an urgent health challenge,” Regan said. “We’re committed to working with all stakeholders to protect the health and safety of all of our communities.”

The bill introduced this week would also identify nine industries for which EPA must set standards. These industries are: organic chemicals, plastics and synthetic fibers; pulp, paper, and paperboard; textile mills; electroplating; metal finishing; leather tanning and finishing; paint formulating; electrical and electrical components; and plastics molding and forming.

UI Professor Explains Forever Chemicals


Josie Taylor | June 28, 2021

University of Iowa professor, Dave Cwiertny gave a presentation via Zoom to a CGRER member. He explained PFAS chemicals in drinking water, which are also referred to as forever chemicals. He gave an explanation for what they are, why people should be concerned, and what can be done now.

Professor Cwiertny near the beginning of the presentation tells us why PFAS exists in the first place. PFAS is a man-made chemical that does have some desirable traits. They have oil and water repellence, temperature resistance and friction reduction. They are used in non-stick cookware and fire fighting foams. Areas near fire fighting locations, like airports, landfills or near food processing locations are at a higher risk of being exposed to PFAS chemicals in their drinking water. Here you can view the PFAS cycle.

PFAS chemicals are something to be concerned about because they can cause problems, specifically for pregnant women. Exposure to PFAS chemicals can cause low birth weight, preterm birth and other problems.

If you have an unregulated private well, you should check if you are near a location that has history of PFAS contamination. Free testing could be available through Iowa Grants to Counties. If you have public water, contact your provider and ask about their plans testing for PFAS chemicals through the Department of Natural Resources.

If you have extra concerns or questions you can contact Professor Cwiertny through his email (david-cwiertny@uiowa.edu) or by phone (319-335-1401).

U.S. House panel moves to clean up PFAs


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | June 24, 2021

The United States House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee approved legislation on Wednesday that aims to reduce Americans’ exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

PFAS are a hazardous, forever chemical that can be found all over the United States. The toxic chemicals is in drinking water, soil, and air because they are commonly used in nonstick cookware and waterproof clothing. The PFAS Action Act of 2021 aims to reclassify PFAS as hazardous substances and would begin federal cleanup standards. The legislation was approved 33-20.

The bill also specifically mentions the use of PFAS in firefighting foam and other related equipment. If the bill passes in the general assembly, the Environmental Protection Agency will oversee the investigation of and the preventions of contamination by these chemicals.

The two most well studied PFAs are perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, and perfluoro octane sulfonate, or PFOS. In April, a team of scientists found the forever chemicals in private wells near the Cedar Rapids airport in Iowa. Des Moines, Davenport, and Bettendorf also have high levels of these two chemicals.

If the bill is passed, the EPA would be able to designate all PFAS or only some as hazardous within five years of the bill being enacted.

PFAS Found near Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids


Via Flickr

Maxwell Bernstein | April 2, 2021

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been used in industry in the United States since the 1940s, and never break down, according to the EPA. Since they never break down, they accumulate in the body and in the environment.

According to the Iowa Capital Dispatch, these chemicals are found in, “airport firefighting foam, food packaging, carpet, dental floss, cookware, paints, cosmetics, cleaning products and waterproof clothing, and other products.”

Scientists from the University of Iowa have found PFAS in 20 rural wells near the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids and 14 wells south and east of the airport, according to the Iowa Capital Dispatch.

The health effects of PFAS include infant birth weights, effects on the immune system, cancer, and thyroid hormone disruption.

Des Moines Water Works Detects Toxic PFAS in Drinking Water


Via Flickr

Nicole Welle | March 29, 2021

Des Moines Water Works recently detected low levels of PFOS, a toxic chemical found in multiple human-made products, in finished drinking water in Des Moines.

PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) is part of a large list of compounds called PFAS (perfluoroalkyl substances), which are commonly found in products like popcorn bags, pizza boxes and clothing. These chemicals repel water and oil, and they are commonly called “forever chemicals” since they do not break down and stay in the environment for a long time. PFAS levels detected in Des Moines drinking water were at 6.5 parts per trillion, which is well below the EPA’s health advisory level of 70 ppt. However, even low levels are a concern and have triggered further investigation, according to a Des Moines Water Works announcement.

PFAS chemicals are known to pose threats to human health and the environment. The EPA has connected them to cancer, low birth weight, immune system problems and thyroid issues. While the levels detected in Des Moines’ drinking water are low, a lot more testing is required before specialists can fully understand how PFAS are affecting Iowa’s water supply.

Des Moines Water Works has reached out to the Iowa DNR, the Iowa Attorney General and Iowa’s Congressional delegation to ask for help in resolving the issue. The Iowa DNR plans to test 50 locations they consider highly vulnerable to pollution for PFAS contamination. The federal Department of Defense is also conducting tests to follow up on high PFAS contamination previously detected in groundwater near the Des Moines and Sioux City airports.

High PFAS levels found in Quad Cities drinking water


Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Tyler Chalfant | January 23rd, 2020

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in the drinking water of several U.S. cities. The Quad Cities had one of the highest levels of the toxic fluorinated chemicals found in the study, behind only Brunswick County, North Carolina. These two locations were the only two where PFAS levels exceeded the 70 parts per trillion advised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

PFAS have been found to interfere with natural hormones, increase cholesterol levels, affect the immune system, and increase the risk of some cancers. Because the substances were once used in the production of consumer products, most people have some levels of PFAS in their blood, though those levels have decreased since they were phased out of production. PFAS are still used in a variety of industrial processes and in firefighting foams used at airstrips. Last year, high levels of PFAS were found near Air National Guard bases in Des Moines and Sioux City.

Of the 44 locations tested, only three had levels of PFAS that were undetectable or below what the EWG considers hazardous for human health. The EWG places a stricter limit on PFAS levels than the EPA does, considering anything above one part per trillion to be harmful. At 34 of the locations sampled, PFAS were found that had previously not been detected by EPA testing.