US chemical giants spent more than $100 million lobbying politicians to kill or weaken laws against their ‘forever chemicals,’ which can contaminate water sources and farmland for decades, a new report says.
Researchers at Food & Water Watch say Dow, DuPont, and other firms, together with their industry group, the American Chemistry Council (ACC), paid out millions to get safety legislation diluted between 2019 and 2022.
It worked, the researchers said in their 11-page study. In that period, lawmakers debated 130 bills about tackling and clearing up forever chemicals, but only four of them made it onto the books.
Amanda Starbuck, the group’s research director, said ‘chemical corporations lied to the public for years about the alarming health impacts’ of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are better known as ‘forever chemicals.’
A harmless fast food wrapper? Think again. It contains ‘forever chemicals,’ which can fester in the human body for years
Politicians who received millions from chemical-giant lobbyists killed the most serious legislation against PFAS
‘Now that the truth about the many harms of PFAS has been exposed, the industry is trying to dodge liability by wielding its vast lobbying arsenal,’ she said.
Amanda Starbuck says ‘chemical corporations lied’
The tiny man-made compounds — which got their name because they don’t break down in the body — were a dream for manufacturers when they were invented almost 100 years ago because of their durability.
Neighborhoods with the highest PFAS levels in drinking water
Concentrations are measured in parts per trillion (PPT)
- Brunswick County, N.C. at 185.9ppt
- Quad Cities, Iowa at 109.8ppt
- Miami, Fla. at 56.7ppt
- Bergen County, N.J. at 51.4ppt
- Wilmington, N.C. at 50.5ppt
- Philadelphia, Pa. at 46.3ppt
- Louisville, Ky. at 45.2ppt
- New Orleans, La. at 41.8ppt
- Charleston, S.C. at 33.3ppt
- Decatur, Ala. at 24.1ppt
Information courtesy of a separate report by the Environmental Working Group
Their ability to repel water, stains, grease and oil, as well as make cardboard and plastic packaging stronger, meant they were used in many everyday products, from nonstick cookware to clothes, carpets, cosmetic products, children’s toys, food and bottled drinks.
But they’re also dangerous. They gather in the human body, and research has linked them to a variety of cancers, blood disorders, fertility problems and birth defects.
A report this year found that manufacturers of PFAS tried to cover up the dangers they posed for more than 30 years. Internal files showed how executives were first aware of the health risks in 1961 — but only alerted the world in the 1990s.
According to Starbuck, those same manufacturers are still at it. In the three years up to 2022, eight major producers of PFAS, including Dow and DuPont, spent at least $55.7 million in corporate lobbying efforts.
At the same time, the ACC spent another $58.7 million on lobbying.
Dow, DuPont, and the ACC, which represents more than 190 chemical firms, did not answer DailyMail.com’s requests for comment.
Between 2019 and 2021, lawmakers debated the PFAS Action Act — a comprehensive bill that would have designated two major forever chemicals as hazardous substances, with restrictions on their use.
The eight PFAS manufacturers paid 28 lobbyists to fight the 2019 version of the bill, researchers said.
The bill passed through the house, but was nixed by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
Two-thirds of committee members had received some $450,000 in campaign contributions from PFAS manufacturers, Starbuck told DailyMail.com.
The victims are everyday Americans, she added.
‘Communities from coast to coast are left footing the enormous bill for PFAS contamination in their drinking water, on their farmland and in their bodies,’ she said
The federal government should change course and ‘hold polluters accountable for cleanup,’ she added.
Studies show half of America’s drinking water is laced with the toxins, as many as 98 percent of Americans have detectable levels of PFAS in their blood.
As this graphic shows, no room in the average household is completely free of the chemicals.
Forever chemicals can be found in all corners of a typical American home
Chemical manufacturer Du Pont is one of the firms highlighted in the damning report
A DailyMail.com investigation earlier this year revealed far higher-than-average rates of cancer cases and deaths, as well as pregnancy complications, in the majority of counties whose drinking water contains high levels of PFAS chemicals.
PFAS are omnipresent in modern life.
Some of the estimated 12,000 PFAS chemicals are used to give nonstick cookware its trademark quality, repel water from raincoats, and comprise the fire extinguishing foam used by firefighters.
The chemicals also often line the packaging of some foods which can then absorb some of the toxins.
Washing dishes lined with PFAS and blanketing crops with PFAS-laden pesticides creates runoff that seeps into drinking water sources.
DuPont was the center of a PFAS-related controversy this year when it agreed, alongside two other chemical companies, to settle pollution complaints for about $1.2 billion.
Central California, where agriculture is a major industry, has shown high concentrations of PFAS in its water systems. This could be due to PFAS-laden insecticides used on farmlands leaching into the groundwater
Food & Water Watch say too many forever chemicals make it into the water we drink
Even while many manufacturers have phased out the use of certain PFAS, such as PFOA, the chemicals have exceedingly long half-lives, in some instances, of up to a decade.
A substance’s half life is the time it takes for half of the initial amount of a chemical to degrade or disappear.
For instance, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), one of the most studied PFAS chemicals, is estimated to have a half-life ranging from several years to more than a decade in the environment before breaking down.
Earlier this year, researchers from the US Geological Survey, a federally-run investigation, tested water sources at more than 700 locations across the country for PFAS.
They found that 45 percent of drinking water sources contained at least one PFAS – with highest concentrations in the Great Plains, the Great Lakes, the Eastern Seaboard and Central/Southern California.
The team’s testing was limited to 32 types of PFAS out of more than 12,000 that exist, meaning thousands of the chemicals could have gone undetected. If that’s the case, it may indicate that the problem is even larger than the study conveys.