ASTHO Policy Watch 2022: Polyfluoroalkyl Substances

January 20, 2022 | Beth Giambrone

Firefighters using fire-retardant foam to put out fire with a hoseEach year, ASTHO notes the top public health policy issues to watch in the upcoming year. ASTHO has published a prospectus on several issues, with more coming later this month. ASTHO kicked off its top 10 public health state policy issues to watch in 2022 with Immunization the first week in January. This week, we are focusing on Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are synthetic chemicals used in products such as nonstick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain resistant fabrics, cosmetics, food packaging, and firefighting foam. These chemicals can migrate into soil, water, and air during production and use, and can accumulate in the blood of people and animals over time from exposure (both from water/soil and consumer products). Evidence shows that exposure to PFAS may cause harmful health effects, such as decreased vaccine response in children, increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer, and increased cholesterol levels.

In October 2021, EPA released its PFAS Strategic Roadmap, which outlines the federal plan to further research, restrict, and remediate environmental contamination by 2024. The plan calls for all levels of government to accelerate efforts to understand the effects of PFAS, clean up existing PFAS contamination, and prevent new contamination. The recently signed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) invests $10 billion to help communities test for and clean up PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water and wastewater.

State legislative approaches to address PFAS contamination range from:

  • Identifying and monitoring PFAS.
  • Establishing maximum levels of PFAS concentrations in air and water.
  • Prohibiting the use of PFAS in firefighting foam.
  • Restricting the sale or use of consumer products known to contain PFAS.

Read the PFAS policy prospectus