(Sacramento) – Legislation that would require state monitoring of all public water systems for toxic fluorinated chemical compounds was introduced by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens). Specifically the bill, AB 756, would require all public water systems to monitor perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfate (PFOS) chemicals and subsequently inform the public of results.
“The industrial legacy of pollution in my district alone is frightening,” said Garcia. “We have federal data that outlines how these toxic chemicals have poisoned our public water supplies, but no such monitoring is mandated or in place in California.”
Some of the most common brand uses of PFOA and PFOS have been with Scotchgard ® and Teflon ®. However, according to the EPA, “both chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time. People may be exposed to PFAS used in commercially-treated products to make them stain- and water-repellent or nonstick. These goods include carpets, leather and apparel, textiles, paper and packaging materials, and non-stick cookware. People who work at PFAS production facilities, or facilities that manufacture goods made with PFAS, may be exposed in certain occupational settings or through contaminated air. Drinking water can be a source of exposure in communities where these chemicals have contaminated water supplies. Such contamination is typically localized and associated with a specific facility.” Another source of the contamination is firefighting foam, typically used to put our large fuel fires at airports, military bases and in the aerospace industry.
“Given California’s abundance of industrial production, particularly in my district of South East Los Angeles, it’s past time we’re monitoring these substances in our water supplies,” added Garcia. “The little, outdated data we do have is alarming. But we know it’s only the tip of the iceberg and that’s frightening.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has no legal limits for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. California has notification levels in place but does not require a “response level” until the rate of contamination is approximately five times the notification level. A response level action requires the removal of the water source from service. There is no Public Health Goal (PHG) or current Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for PFOA or PFOS. However, widespread testing can help collect data to inform a PHG and the MCL process at the state level.
Testing by water systems is voluntary, and is reported to the State Water Board. Statewide, mandated testing as this bill would require, coupled with effective consumer communication would benefit public health throughout the state. Though PFOA and PFOS have been banned, historical contamination and reformulations of the chemical compounds still exist throughout the state.
In June 2018, the OEHHA issued a memorandum outlining the environmental persistency of PFOA and PFOS. The document explains how the chemicals are readily absorbed but not readily eliminated from the body and the effects which include developmental toxicity and immunotoxicity associated, cancer and liver toxicity. Subsequently, they have made interim recommendations to lower the notification levels of both chemicals. Both chemicals have also been listed on California’s Prop. 65 list of chemical that cause cancer or reproductive harm.
The 58th Assembly District includes the cities of Montebello, Pico Rivera, Commerce, Bell Gardens, Downey, Norwalk, Bellflower, Cerritos and Artesia.