Safe drinking water is a fundamental human right, it is a principle that acknowledges that it is essential to every person’s life. It was recognized as a human right by the United Nations General Assembly on 28 July 2010. Lack of access to safe, sufficient, and affordable water, sanitation and hygiene facilities has a devastating effect on the health, dignity, and prosperity of billions of people, and has significant consequences for the realization of other human rights (United Nations, 2021). Opening the faucet at home to have a glass of water should not be a matter of concern to anyone. But sadly, for millions of US citizens and thousands of Alaskans it is. It is very disappointment that our legislation is taking so long to provide serious measures to protect Alaska’s drinking water and therefore Alaskans public health and well-being from the dangers posed by PFAS. Right now, in the United States there are 94 current policies in 31 states and 39 adopted policies in 15 states to reduce or eliminate PFAS. There is an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that PFAS is linked to serious health problems such as cancer, hormone disruption, immune suppression, cardiovascular disease, and reproductive problems. Scientists are concerned about how exposure to PFAS and other toxic chemicals can worsen the impacts of Covid-19. PFAS are also known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down easily in the environment. Nearly every American has PFAS in their body. They are found in blood, breast milk and even umbilical cord blood of newborn babies. A recent study found 60 tons of PFAS in the Arctic Ocean. As a public health professional, I urge the Alaska legislature to adopt health-protective drinking water standards for the entire class of PFAS chemicals by supporting SB 121. It would be just to provide safe drinking water for contaminated communities. It would be wise to ban the use of all PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam, food packaging, textiles, and other non-essential products and to hold manufacturers financially responsible for cleaning up PFAS pollution and the harm it caused communities. Also, it should ensure that contaminated communities have access to testing of local foods, blood serum testing; health care and medical monitoring for early signs of PFAS-related diseases. Also, to ensure that disposal of PFAS does not further contaminate communities that are already harmed and to prevent incineration of PFAS-contaminated soils and firefighting foams. Finally, legislation should include to establish health-protective remediation standards for soil and water at contaminated sites and to require remediation technologies that remove and destroy PFAS contamination. Please, support SB 121 to ensure the protection of Alaskans now and the future generations to come. Remember, water is life.
Dr. Samarys Seguinot-Medina resides in Anchorage and is an environmental and public health scientist.