On June 9, 2021

PFAS, public health and regulation of use

Dear Editor,

During my 35-year career as a naturopathic physician I noticed that the natural treatments that had been successful in keeping people healthy in the 1980s became less and less effective. During these years the toxic load of chemicals in the environment has increased drastically. One group of fluoride containing chemicals known as PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) does not break down in the environment, bioaccumulates in the body, and causes multiple health problems interfering with liver and thyroid function, hormone balance, the immune system and child development. It has also been linked to testicular and kidney cancer. 

For this reason I am grateful that when Governor Scott signed S.20 into law recently, Vermont became the ninth state to enact regulations on some types of PFAS. 

Through the efforts of the Vermont Military Poisons Coalition members and the testimony of WILPF member Marguerite Adelman, amid intense industry opposition, the bill was successfully amended in the House to include a deadline of Oct. 1, 2023, for a ban on the manufacture, sale, and distribution of class B firefighting foams, which contains PFAS. 

Unfortunately legislative leaders said they couldn’t require the use of the fluorine-free foams by the military, citing federal preemption as their basis even though there are safe and effective alternatives already in use in other nations by other militaries. S. 20 does not challenge the authority of the federal government to require the use of poison foams in our communities, so the Vermont National Guard is exempt from oversight. 

My question is: Why is the military allowed to keep contaminating the environment and harming its members and nearby communities unnecessarily?

The Vermont Military Poisons Coalition will continue to educate and advocate for the elimination of these dangerous chemicals, already known to be leaching into our drinking water supplies from seven Guard installations in the state.

We need to do so much more to end PFAS contamination of the environment and our bodies, including clean-up, regulating PFAS as a class of man-made chemicals, etc.

Catherine Bock, Charlotte

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