A new study concluded that high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances compounds used in pesticides aerially sprayed on millions of acres of land across the United States have contaminated the water of thousands of communities. The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility recently released the results of these “forever chemicals,” which don’t break down in the environment and build up in the human body.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are “a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals,” which are “very persistent in the environment and in the human body—meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time,” according to the EPA. With these “forever chemical” building up in the blood stream of the human body, exposure to PFAS can lead to suppressed immune function, thyroid disease, testicular and kidney disease, cancers, and liver damage.
“These findings shock the conscience—states likely have unknowingly contaminated communities’ water with PFAS hidden in pesticides,” Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director at Food & Water Watch, said. “We need to stop the introduction of toxic forever chemicals into the environment and our water sources to protect public health.”
The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) conducted a test on “a jug of Anvil 10+10, the pesticide used in the aerial spraying programs of Massachusetts, parts of Florida, New York, and many other states,” and found it contained “roughly 250 parts per trillion (ppt) of PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid, a C8 PFAS, manufacture of which has been largely but not completely phased out in the U.S.), and 260 – 500 ppt of HFPO-DA (hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid, a “GenX” replacement for PFOA),” according to the report.
According to the test results, Massachusetts aerially sprayed Anvil 10+10 on 2.2 million acres of land across the state in 2019 in an effort to control mosquito-borne illnesses and more than 200,000 acres in 2020.
“In Massachusetts, communities are struggling to remove PFAS from their drinking water supplies, while at the same time, we may be showering them with PFAS from the skies and roads,” Kyla Bennett, PEER science policy director, a scientist and attorney formerly with EPA, said. “The frightening thing is that we do not know how many insecticides, herbicides, or even disinfectants contain PFAS.”
The test results further confirmed that while PFAS were not listed as an active ingredient in Anvil 10+10, PEER found that the EPA approved PFAS as an inert ingredient and the agency doesn’t require pesticide manufacturers to disclose inert ingredients in pesticides, therefore, withholding them as “trade secrets” or “proprietary” information, according to the test results.
“Once again, the EPA has failed to protect the American people from harmful pollution by absurdly designating PFAS as ‘inert’ and allowing corporations to withhold crucial information about it,” Hauter said.
In a letter to the EPA, PEER urges the agency to withdraw PFAS from approval immediately and set stronger enforceable standards to stop the deliberate spraying of such chemicals on millions of acres of land.
“This PFAS fiasco shows that public trust in EPA having a full accounting of these materials and their safety is utterly misplaced,” Bennett said. “Until EPA acts, states need to adopt their own safeguards and chemical disclosure requirements because they certainly cannot depend upon the diligence of EPA.”