‘It’s hard to win these fights’

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PFAS, harmful substances also called forever chemicals, are in our food, water, and blood. And according to a report from Food & Water Watch, powerful chemical lobbyists intend to keep them there. 

The lobbiers went after bills during the last two election cycles that would have impacted the chemical industry, spending more than $100 million to block many of them. Eight bills (of 130 proposed) made it through the lawmaking process, according to a report from the Guardian. 

“It’s hard to win these fights when there’s so much funding being put in from the opposing side,” Watch study lead author Amanda Starbuck told the publication.

What’s happening in Washington? 

Chemical company officials have an alleged history of at least glossing over the harmful impact of the substances, commonly tagged “forever” because they take a long time to degrade naturally

At worst, the officials at chemical giants, including DuPont and 3M, delayed the release of bad news about PFAS. The chemicals are used in many products, including nonstick pans

One bill that was heavily fought by lobbyists would have designated some of the most harmful PFAS as hazardous materials. That would have made the chemical makers responsible for cleanup, all per the Guardian.

“Altogether, the PFAS manufacturers funded an arsenal of lobbyists to work these bills, using staff lobbyists as well as professional lobbying firms,” the Watch reported

One lobbying firm is the American Chemistry Council. For its part, the council notes on its website that it promotes an industry that is responsible for people and the environment, including sustainability. 

Why is it important? 

PFAS are likely in the blood of 97% of Americans, the Watch reported. While scientists are still studying the chemicals’s impact on humans, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that the substances “may” lead to complications during pregnancy, immune system problems, and cancer, among other maladies. 

Other research provides more evidence of body-wide PFAS-caused problems for men and women. They include the early onset of puberty, high cholesterol, and thyroid disease, per the National Library of Medicine. 

What can I do to avoid PFAS? 

Replacing nonstick pans with steel, glass, or ceramic is one way to avoid cooking chemicals into your food. 

“Don’t heat up food that’s wrapped in grease-resistant packaging. And make popcorn on the stovetop instead of in PFAS-treated microwave bags,” all per the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The council also recommends avoiding fabric and furniture with “stain-repellent” treatments. They are laden with PFAS, and they don’t work all that well, anyway.

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