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Sununu Signs PFAS Contamination Bill

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The nation's first study of PFAS contamination is centered at the site of the former Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire. (Master Sgt. Dave Casey/Wikimedia Commons)
The nation's first study of PFAS contamination is centered at the site of the former Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire. (Master Sgt. Dave Casey/Wikimedia Commons)
 By Suzanne Potter - Producer, Contact
July 24, 2020

CONCORD, N.H. - Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill yesterday to fight PFAS contamination on several fronts.

The measure would compel insurance companies to pay for blood tests to detect PFAS chemicals. It also writes PFAS standards for drinking water into statute - which would head off a lawsuit brought by manufacturer 3M that has blocked those standards until now.

Mindi Messmer is a public-health scientist who is running for the New Hampshire Executive Council. She says studies show the so-called "forever" chemicals formerly used in fire-fighting foam and Teflon coatings can wreak havoc in the environment and in the body.

"Things like high cholesterol, pre-eclampsia, kidney cancer, liver cancer, some thyroid issues," says Messmer. "So we know that there are some proven ill effects. "

In the past, 3M has said the standards "fail to meet" regulatory standards and ignore "the best available science."

Messmer says at least 3,000 people in Pease and thousands more in the Merrimack area are believed to have been exposed to PFAS in the air and drinking water over the past few decades.

Today Sen. Jeanne Shaheen - D-N.H - introduced a bill to educate physicians on the signs of PFAS exposure.

Josh Marcus-Blank, communications director for the senator's re-election campaign, says earlier this week she got 15 million dollars added to the Defense Authorization Act for a PFAS pilot study at the site of the former Pease Air Force Base.

"Establishing a rigorous health study nationally will actually provide us some serious clarity on what this means," says Marcus-Blank. "And that has a lot of bearing on how we address these chemicals going forward and the levels we set for them in New Hampshire and across the country, and also how we treat folks who have been unfortunately contaminated."

Another bill now on its way to Sununu's desk would allow judges to order medical monitoring for people who have lawsuits in progress. Meanwhile, the state is suing 3M and Du Pont over the PFAS environmental damage.

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