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Maryland must restrict this cancer-causing chemical | READER COMMENTARY

In this June 18, 2018, file photo, equipment used to test for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known collectively as PFAS, in drinking water is seen at Trident Laboratories in Holland, Mich. (Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP, File)
In this June 18, 2018, file photo, equipment used to test for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known collectively as PFAS, in drinking water is seen at Trident Laboratories in Holland, Mich. (Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP, File) (Cory Morse/AP)

Senate Bill 195/House Bill 22 are important bills introduced by Democrats Sen. Sarah Elfreth of Anne Arundel County and Del. Sara Love of Montgomery County that would take an important step in regulating dangerous perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, in Maryland (”High levels of man-made chemicals detected in Hampstead, Westminster drinking water,” Jan. 29).

The chemicals in the smallest amounts have been linked to several cancers, fetal abnormalities and numerous childhood diseases. PFAS never breaks down while it bioaccumulates in humans. These factors set PFAS apart from other contaminants. The toxins build up in us and they don’t go away.

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This common-sense measure would require the safe storage of firefighting foams containing PFAS toxins and it would ban the incineration of PFAS foams in the state. Additionally, PFAS foams are prohibited from being buried in landfills. Rugs and carpets may not be sold that contain PFAS materials and the bill bans the sale or use of food packaging containing PFAS.

Each part of this bill has passed in other states. Industry leaders like Home Depot, Lowe’s Home Improvement and IKEA are already making carpets and rugs PFAS-free, and Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s and McDonald’s have made commitments to PFAS-free packaging. Although people can come into contact with PFAS, the greatest threat from these chemicals occurs after they are discarded and sent to the landfill. Liquid leachate from the state’s landfills are sent to wastewater treatment facilities that allow the chemicals to be pumped into creeks and rivers while sewer sludge containing PFAS is applied to farm fields.

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We must show some progress toward PFAS regulation this year even though it’s a challenging General Assembly session. The state must also set maximum contaminant levels in drinking water, surface water and various foods to protect public health. For more on the dangers of PFAS and the need for legislation to protect public health, see the Environmental Working Group and Maryland PIRG.

Pat Elder, Lexington Park

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