Traces of dangerous “forever chemicals” have been found in many water systems across the country, chemicals that come from many common sources but that could be extremely dangerous to our health. State officials and the feds are looking into the situation, but activists feel not enough is being done.
Cheryl Cail, vice chief of the Waccamaw Indian People in South Carolina, is a leader in a national coalition that is pushing to eliminate these chemicals that come from substances that have been used in manufacturing many products – Teflon coating, and carpet, for example -- for years, and that are used in foam to fight fires.
The chemicals at issue are per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or P-FAS, and they have been linked to various cancers, endocrine disruption and other serious and life-threatening health conditions.
Cail, who is our guest on a new episode of The Lean to the Left Podcast, as vice chief of the Waccamaw tribe, already was active in working to protect our rivers and the water supply. Then, when her 20-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer and subsequently was required to undergo surgery, she began to question what environmental factors could have been the cause.
"It's not definitive that my son's cancer came from this...but the fact is that we do live and he did work and attend school at essentially a ground zero site and within a year's time, he had cancer," she says.
"I call it life derailed. We can't change what has happened, but somebody needs to do something so it won't continue."
That "ground zero" site, she says, is an upscale suburban area near Myrtle Beach, Market Common, that once was a military base. One of the key sources of P-FAS is known to have been chemical foam used by the military to fight fires and for other purposes.
Now Cail is part of a national coalition that is pushing the federal government, and her home state of South Carolina, to take immediate steps to set mandatory limits of P-FAS and to clean up our drinking water supplies.
"You just have to know one thing, and that is that this is not something that should be in the water," she says. "We should not be consuming it. It needs to be addressed. It needs to not be coming through our tap water. It should not be in the environment."
The economic implications of regulating P-FAS are such that many lawmakers are skittish about setting tough regulatory standards. In South Carolina, a bill to do that is before the state legislature, but a subcommittee instead has just approved a measure that would have state regulators conduct more studies on the pollutants and take action to fix problems when drinking water systems run into trouble. The legislation is expected to be considered by the full Medical Affairs Committee next year.
Nationally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established advisory standards, and the Defense Department is also considering steps. A new federal law aimed at making infrastructure improvements includes some funding for steps to deal with P-FAS.
To learn more from Cheryl Cail, listen to our interview with her here: