PFAS News Roundup: PFAS exposure may affect COVID vaccine, NY bans PFAS in food packaging

PFAS News Roundup: PFAS exposure may affect COVID vaccine, NY bans PFAS in food packaging
December 18, 2020 Natasha Blakely

PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of widespread man-made chemicals that don’t break down in the environment or the human body and have been flagged as a major contaminant in sources of water across the country.

Keep up with PFAS-related developments in the Great Lakes area.

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Toxicologists who specialize in the health effects of “forever chemicals” known as PFAS are warning that exposure to the toxic substances may increase the risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms and undermine the efficacy of vaccinations just starting to be given against the disease.

Dr. Linda Birnbaum, retired director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, said that people who’ve been exposed to high levels of PFAS may end up needing additional booster shots of the coronavirus vaccine and may deserve to be moved up the vaccination priority list due to their risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Legislation that would have helped Michigan and other states force the U.S. Department of Defense to comply with stringent state laws governing military pollution cleanup has been stripped from an annual defense bill moving through Congress.

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, championed the provision, which was backed by attorneys general in Michigan and 17 other states. The measure couldn’t overcome Republican opposition, she said.

New York:

On December 3, 2020, Governor Cuomo took the final step and signed the PFAS food packaging ban it into law, joining Maine and Washington in banning the use of PFAS in food packaging. The bill broadly bans the use of all PFAS, a class of over 7,000 chemicals that include PFOA, PFOS, and GenX.


Plans to investigate links between health and the toxic PFAS family of chemicals at a cluster of sites in Bucks and Montgomery counties took another step forward Thursday when officials described how they will look for evidence that the chemicals may cause cancer and some other serious health conditions.

Starting next year, the project aims to look for signs of illness in the blood of 1,000 adults and 300 children in and around Horsham, Warrington and Warminster townships where public and private water wells have been tainted with the chemicals because of decades of their use at two local military bases.


Republican lawmakers want to rein in environmental regulators and restrict their ability to regulate firefighting foam containing so-called forever chemicals known as PFAS. They’re seeking to do away with parts of an emergency rule and introduce a bill that would limit efforts to properly treat foam containing PFAS.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources crafted an emergency rule to enforce restrictions under a bill that was signed into law earlier this year. The law, which took effect in September, bans the use of firefighting foam containing PFAS except in emergencies. The chemicals have been linked to cancer and other health problems.

An environmental contractor hired by the Dane County Regional Airport found combined levels of two chemicals — PFOA and PFOS — at more than 68,000 parts per trillion in water collected from a site near Darwin Road, according to a report submitted last week to the Department of Natural Resources.

Samples taken from a site near Pearson Street found levels in excess of 20,000 ppt.

United States:

A December 2019 letter from the FDA to the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) shows that the FDA declined to set limits for PFAS in bottled water. Follow up email correspondence to Consumer Reports in October 2020 confirms that this remains the FDA’s position.

So-called forever chemicals in wastewater may get closer scrutiny as a result of the Environmental Protection Agency’s new interim strategy for discharge permits announced Monday.

A group of EPA staffers began meeting in February to determine how to address the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, at facilities with EPA-issued permits for discharged wastewater. The group recommended that permit writers include requirements to monitor PFAS in places the chemicals are expected to appear.

Catch up with PFAS news on Great Lakes Now:

Wisconsin releases action plan to reduce PFAS chemical use

PFAS chemicals are ubiquitous. A Pitt scientist is working to protect you from thousands of types at once.

Indiana universities receive grants to study PFAS impact on water quality

PFAS News Roundup: Michigan health study, Wisconsin deer and fish, possible impact on COVID-19 vaccine

PFAS News Roundup: PFOS in fish, Wisconsin standards in dispute, lacking regulations in Canada

PFAS Progress: Michigan continues legislative push for more action against PFAS

PFAS Around the Great Lakes Region: Actions taken in each state or province and standards set, if any

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Featured image: Bottled Water (Photo by Steven Depolo via flickr.com cc 2.0)


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