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FDA Launches New PFAS Webpage; Senate and House Pass Bills; Dairy Encouraged to Learn More

July 30, 2019

NMPF is encouraging its members to familiarize themselves with the Per- and Polyfluoralkyl (PFAS) issue, the subject of a website launched by the Food and Drug Administration at the beginning of the month. With two U.S. dairies among publicly reported examples of PFAS-contaminated areas, the dairy community will need to be better-educated on PFAS, as well as their real and perceived risks, as the substances gain government and media attention in the coming months.

PFAS contamination has become a rising concern among municipalities, military installations and businesses that may have high levels of the substances in their drinking water and soil. The FDA site explains what the substances are and the issues surrounding it. PFAS encompasses nearly 5,000 synthetic chemicals that stay in the environment for potentially thousands of years – they’re sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals.” Typically used in non-stick products because of their impermeability to grease, water and oil, PFAS chemicals are also found in stain and water-resistant fabrics and carpeting,
cleaning products, paints, and fire-fighting foams.

PFAS can be found in food primarily through environmental contamination, including the use of contaminated water and soil to grow food for human or animal consumption. While health impacts have not been substantiated, the FDA is working to better understand the potential dietary exposures by sampling for contamination and reviewing the current authorized uses of PFAS in food contact applications.

Amounts of PFAS exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency health advisory limit have been found on two U.S.
dairies. One of the farms, located in New Mexico, was contaminated because of the use of firefighting foams containing PFAS on the Air Force base nearby. Water samples from the surrounding area were found to be 35 times greater than the advised limit. The second farm, located in Maine, was spreading sewage sludge which contained PFAS on to their fields. Neither farm is currently able to ship their milk, and further testing on dairy farms suggests the presence of exceedingly high PFAS levels may be isolated instances.

The Senate was the first to pass PFAS legislation as part of the National Defense Authorization Act which includes provisions regarding PFAS contamination. These include 1) authorizing the U.S. Geological Survey to develop advanced testing methods to detect and catalog PFAS in the environment, 2) allowing the Department of Defense to acquire PFAS-contaminated land surrounding airbases and to provide compensation to the land owners, 3) authorizing the Department of Defense to engage in remediation to clean-up ground water and 4) to provide water to the agricultural operations impacted.

The House legislation passed as well and includes giving the Department of Defense the ability to provide water to impacted agricultural operations, adds funding for the Centers for Disease Control’s nationwide PFAS health survey and similarly to the Senate bill, adds funding for the U.S. Geological Survey to conduct sampling for PFAS contamination. NMPF will be working hard to make sure all provisions from the Senate legislation are included in the final Bill.

In addition, NMPF has been working closely with the FDA, EPA, state officials, and IDFA to stay on top of the issue, emphasizing that it is a drinking water issue and to advocate on behalf of dairy farmers.

Contact: Clay Detlefsen