Breaking: PFAS-contaminated milk discovered on Maine farm
As Clean Water Action members, you've been hearing a lot about the growing problem of PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl substances, contaminating water in multiple states across the country. Today, reporters have broken a new story about downstream pollution that is deeply troubling. A family dairy farm in Arundel, Maine is facing ruin as high levels of PFAS have been detected in the milk they produce. PFAS are a class of toxic chemicals known as "forever chemicals" as they are very persistent in the environment and in our bodies. Evidence in peer-reviewed studies is mounting about the damage they do to our health -- PFAS exposure is linked to certain cancers, liver damage, and hormone disruption. PFAS can be found in many products from Teflon pans and Goretex-coated rain gear to food packaging and even fire fighting foam.
Maine state officials first detected a problem in testing well water on the farm and began to investigate further, also finding contaminated soil and hay. The suspected source of the contamination: sewage waste and industrial sludge. Testing results for the milk at the farm reached levels as high as 1,420 parts per trillion. Although there are no federal standards for "safe levels" of PFAS in milk, Maine health officials have set a limit at approximately 1/7th that amount, banning milk for sale at that point.
For now, we seem to have more questions than answers -- is this a broad problem that's just emerging? Are other farms that have used sludge waste as fertilizer also contaminated? How many children have been exposed to this poisoned milk? How is it possible that family farms, already shouldering so many burdens in an effort to remain solvent in our modern world, have to deal with one more potentially catastrophic problem?
One piece of this puzzle, however, is crystal clear: the root cause of this problem is the manufacturing and promotion of PFAS by the chemical industry, even though internal documents reveal they knew about its toxicity for decades. The cost of clean up, for this farm in Maine and for the water bodies across the country contaminated with PFAS, should be bourne by the industry.
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