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Showing posts with label PFAS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PFAS. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Underwear for firefighters means to prevent cancer

The Defender Brief by 9 Alarm Apparel
A Massachusetts textile maker has teamed with firefighters to make cancer-preventive underwear.

In October 2021, I shared John Oliver's Last Week treatment of PFAS, the highly carcinogenic chemical that is used to make non-stick cookware, as depicted in the movie-based-on-a-true-story Dark Waters, and which can now be detected in the blood of most Americans.

At that time, Oliver lamented that PFAS is not even on the list of toxins that water quality tests look for. Indeed, as I stated in an update to that post the same month, I sought my water quality report at home in Providence, Rhode Island, and there was no mention of PFAS.

There has been progress since. Both the U.S. EPA and the European Union are moving forward with plans announced in 2021 to regulate PFAS. (But see Tom Perkins, US Water Likely Contains More "Forever Chemicals" Than EPA Tests Show, Guardian, July 6, 2022.)

In my house, we replaced our Teflon-coated cookware with a Rachel Ray set we hope is PFAS-free. I took the Teflon stuff to metal recycling, but probably, I acknowledge, it will contribute to the problem in the short term, as landfill waste is leeching PFAS into the earth.

There's a long way to go. In late June, NPR reported, "the EPA put out a new advisory warning that even tiny amounts of some of PFAS chemicals found in drinking water may pose risks." And "[s]cientists are finding PFAS everywhere." A so-called "forever chemical," PFAS persists in the environment, practically never breaking down.

Firefighters are especially vulnerable to PFAS exposure, and testicular cancer is an especial risk. Reminiscent of once seemingly miraculous asbestos, PFAS is used in fire-suppressive gear as well as the firefighting foam in which firefighters can find themselves literally swamped. Firefighters filed a wave of lawsuits in February, CBS News reported, claiming cancer resulting from PFAS exposure.

In a welcome sliver-of-hope development, Massachusetts textile makers announced in tandem with the February lawsuits the sale of PFAS-protective underwear for firefighters.

Precision Sportwear is making "Defender Briefs," a product created by Northampton, Mass., firefighter Levi Bousquet and his company, 9 Alarm Apparel. They told WBZ that Defender Briefs "block 99% of cancer-causing agents from reaching the skin." Precision is located in Fall River, Mass., and 9 Alarm Apparel in Belchertown, Mass.

9 Alarm is marketing the underwear with the slogan, "Protect the Boys."

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Unregulated, 'Dark Waters' chemicals persist in cookware, clothing, sickening people, environment

Comedian and social critic John Oliver's latest top story on HBO's Last Night concerned PFAS, the artificial chemical substances behind non-stick coatings on cookware and incorporated into food wrappings and textiles, known to be highly dangerous to human health.

The stuff persists, Oliver explained, in new, unregulated, and unlabeled formulations, despite a horrific track record of illness, from obesity to terminal cancer, and environmental damage.  Oliver related recent history by quoting parts of the landmark New York Times Magazine feature by Nathaniel Rich in 2016, "The Lawyer Who Became Dupont's Worst Nightmare."  That piece inspired the unsettling 2019 feature film Dark Waters.  Oliver also excerpted a 2018 documentary, The Devil We Know.

PFAS, a "forever chemical" that persists in the environment for thousands of years, is now in the blood of virtually all Americans.  Food wrappings and clothing are our greatest risk, Oliver explained, and there is no labeling to warn us.

I just caught this on a spot-check. Adiós, sartén.
In my household, since Dark Waters brought the issue to our attention, we've exclusively adopted silicone tools to use with non-stick-coated cookware.  And at the first sign of scratching, out goes the pan or pot: a pricey luxury we are lucky to be able to afford, while we only worsen the environmental problem.  We have lately been investigating non-stick alternatives, and Oliver has ignited the gas burner under us to get moving on that.

PFAS is in the water supply, too, sometimes in alarming doses, 70 parts per trillion (ppt) being the EPA's recommended maximum concentration in drinking water.  Oliver pointed viewers to a "PFAS Contamination" interactive map created by the NGO Environmental Working Group.  The map is intriguing and informative to play around with, as it compiles water quality data from around the country.

But the most frightening takeaway from the map is the data it does not contain.  Data collection is hit or miss.  The closest results to me in East Bay Rhode Island come from a small school serving only 40 persons (4 ppt), a Massachusetts water district serving 13,627 persons (20 ppt), and the Pawtucket (R.I.) water system, serving 99,200 persons and reporting a PFAS excess at 74 ppt.

My local water authority, Bristol County (BCWA), says my water rather comes from Providence, which is not on the EWG data map, and where water quality reports appear to be missing.  It further undermines my confidence in the system that BCWA has been wanting to build a pipeline to Pawtucket, which offers, BCWA says, "another source of excellent quality water."

At last, Europe is moving ahead with regulation; I hope that will spur the United States to follow suit.

[UPDATE, 17 Oct. 2021:  Providence Water sent me a copy of the 2020 Water Quality Report in the mail. As anticipated by Oliver, there is no mention in the report of PFAS.]