By Doug Farquhar
Chemical threats have long plagued Michigan. The state's long history as an industrial powerhouse also led to contaminations of several communities.
Many have heard of Flint’s challenges with lead-tainted water, but less-well-known are contaminations of polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in other communities.
Senator Winnie Brinks (D) sponsored a lunch session for the Michigan Legislature to learn about these pollutants, attended by more than 20 legislators and staff and several members of the public, including former Michigan Representative Francis Spaniola, who served in the 1980s.
“It’s like déjà vu all over again,” Spaniola said when asked about responding to these chemicals. “People don’t want to admit it’s a problem.”
As the chemicals are found in more places, state legislators and administrations are being forced to act in response to the public.
States lack clear direction from the federal government, which has produced conflicting guidance regarding the substances.
States do not have a federally-delegated chemical safety regulatory program as they do under the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which governs how the EPA regulates the introduction of new or existing chemicals, largely ignores states.
Speakers from the University of Michigan, Emory University and Alma College made short presentations before opening a discussion with the audience. The session was moderated by NCSL.
You can find more information on PFAS on the NCSL website.
Doug Farquhar covers Environmental Health for NCSL.