Urging Congress to Address the Threat of “Forever” Chemicals


“Forever” chemicals are toxic, manmade substances that resist degradation in the environment—hence the “forever” name—and are found in things like textiles with Scotchgard, Teflon products, food packaging, and firefighting foam. These chemicals pose a public health threat because they contaminate sources of drinking water, causing serious adverse health effects in both humans and animals, including kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, and liver damage.

AG Racine has joined a collation of 22 other Attorneys General in urging Congress to pass legislation to aid states in addressing the public health threat of toxic “forever” chemicals, specifically the family of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Additionally, the Attorneys General also called on Congress to provide financial assistance to help state and local governments offset the high cost burden of cleaning up drinking water supplies.

Some states with significant PFAS contamination are currently spending tens of millions of dollars to address the contamination in public drinking water systems, and to investigate numerous areas and sources of potential contamination. Across the country, PFAS contamination is most often associated with military bases, firefighting training centers, civilian airports, and industrial facilities.

While both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have advanced legislation that addresses issues related to PFAS contamination, the Attorneys General urge Congress to address specific, urgent legislative needs in their final bill. Specifically, the coalition highlights in their letter:

“While PFAS are entirely human-made, they are estimated to be detectable in the blood stream of approximately 99% of the U.S. population. PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they resist degradation in the environment. PFAS also bioaccumulate – and are toxic – to humans and animals. Although scientific knowledge regarding PFAS is still developing, PFAS are linked to serious adverse health effects in humans and animals.”

Over the past year, OAG has devoted new resources to protecting the environment and protecting the health and safety of District residents. OAG is deeply involved in the District’s ongoing cleanup of the Anacostia River and has joined numerous multistate lawsuits to stop the Trump administration from rolling back important environmental protections. Last year, the office filed suit against Ward 5 businesses that repeatedly spilled toxic oil onto sidewalks and streets. Recently, the office filed suit against a Ward 7 landlord for exposing tenants to toxic lead paint.