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New task force to begin study of PFAS chemicals after being found in water sourced locally

HARTFORD – A new interagency task force will soon begin work on a plan to minimize the impact of a group of potentially dangerous industrial compounds known as “forever chemicals” on Connecticut residents.

The group of about 20 state officials representing 18 state agencies is scheduled to meet Tuesday. The panel will be led by the commissioners of the Departments of Energy and Environmental Protection and Public Health.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont formed the task force this month in hopes of minimizing residents’ environmental exposure to the chemicals, known as PFAS, and minimizing future releases of PFAS. The group is also charged with creating a strategy to identify, assess and clean up past releases of PFAS.

“The risks that PFAS pose to Connecticut residents and the environment command our attention and prompt action,” Lamont said in a letter to participating state officials. Last month, a toxic firefighting foam containing PFAS, stored at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, leaked into the Farmington River.

The group is expected to learn about PFAS, a family of synthetic chemicals manufactured and used around the world since the 1940s. They’ve been used in numerous products, including nonstick cookware and food packaging because they can repel water, oil, grease, and heat. Such properties have made PFAS resistant to natural degradation.

They’ve been linked to various health risks, including developmental issues in children and decreased liver, thyroid and immune system function.

Taskforce members are expected to present Lamont with an action plan by Oct. 1.

Sen. Blumenthal also sent a letter to the USFDA, demanding actions after dangerous levels of PFAS were detected in water sourced from Spring Hill Dairy in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

On July 2, 2019 the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (Mass DPH) issued a notice recommending that pregnant women, nursing mothers and infants avoid drinking certain brands of spring water bottled by Spring Hill Farm Dairy. The recommendation came after PFAS were detected at levels Mass DPH recommends not be consumed by bottle-fed infants or by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. A review by Blumenthal’s office found that some of these brands were available for sale in Connecticut.

“Given the widespread persistence of PFAS in our environment and drinking water, many people have turned to bottled water to avoid adding toxins to their bodies. In light of this, it is especially concerning that bottled water may contain PFAS in unsafe concentrations. My constituents, as well as many other Americans, continue to be exposed to these toxic substances. I urge the FDA to act expeditiously to tackle this national crisis in consultation with other federal agencies,” wrote Blumenthal.

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