PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are man-made chemicals common in firefighting foam and non-stick coatings that persist in the environment and in the human body. The use of these chemicals is so prolific that a CDC survey found PFAS in the blood of 97% of the participants.
Human exposure to PFAS is most likely to occur through ingestion of contaminated water or food. Communities near chemical manufacturing facilities, facilities that produce products containing PFAS, and facilities that use firefighting foams may also experience groundwater contamination. PFAS have been linked to many troubling health impacts including thyroid disease, cancer, high blood pressure, low fertility and low birth weight. Recent studies suggest PFAS exposure may reduce antibody response to vaccines. And a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists suggests that low income communities and communities of color are more likely to live within five miles of a site contaminated by PFAS.
Last year, the General Assembly passed legislation requiring VDH to protect Virginia's drinking water from PFAS contamination by studying the occurrence of these chemicals at up to 50 water sources across the state. Unfortunately, no additional funding was made available to support this important work.
We’re asking the General Assembly’s Budget Conference Committee to adopt Senate budget item 307 #1s, which provides $60,000 in fiscal year 2022 for the Department of Health’s PFAS study. We’re also encouraging the Conference Committee to include an additional $60,000 in support for the Department of Health’s immediate PFAS sampling needs in fiscal year 2021. This funding will allow for multiple water sample tests at each of the selected drinking water sources, and enable use of a new, EPA-validated test that detects 11 types of PFAS contamination.
Ensuring the health of our water starts with quality science-based information. We need your help to urge the General Assembly’s Budget Conference Committee to adopt this important funding into a final budget.