We have heard increasing concern about PFAS from our members across Southeast Alaska and residents throughout the state — from scientists and health officials alarmed by study results, from decision-makers grappling with how best to move forward, and from communities standing up to large chemical manufacturing companies and non-responsive governments to demand change.
In response, we have compiled resources here to provide information on the issue and what it could mean for Southeast communities.
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, refers to a group of over 3,000 widely used human-made chemicals linked to cancer and other health risks. This emerging issue is gaining attention across the United States as an increasing number of communities are finding PFAS contamination in their groundwater, drinking water, and food.
People can be exposed to PFAS by drinking and coming into contact with contaminated water, through PFAS-treated fabrics and raingear, food packaging, nonstick cookware, and eating contaminated plants, fish, or meat. PFAS accumulates in the food chain, so even if you avoid processed foods wrapped in PFAS-containing packaging, you may be exposed through the wild fish, game, and plants you eat. PFAS is believed to be spread through air pollution, as well. Because our understanding of PFAS contamination is still young, a safety threshold for consumption of affected fish has not yet been determined. Alaska has not yet issued PFAS-containing fish consumption guidelines.
There are many concerning environmental and human health impacts associated with PFAS contamination in Alaska. There are also a number of individuals and groups dedicated to protecting their families and communities from PFAS contamination, working tirelessly on this challenge.
The lists that follow include ways to learn more, get involved, and connect with and support those working on this issue.
What You Can Do:
- Test your water: Contact your local government first to see if they are addressing potential PFAS contamination and conducting water tests. They may not yet be aware of this concern, so you may want to share this information with them, and ask if your local fire department has used Aqueous Film Forming Foam in the past, and where. If in Alaska, you can also contact the ADEC Contaminated Sites Program at (907) 465-5250 to see if the State is doing any testing or cleanup in your community. If you find that you are responsible for your own water testing, click here for a list of labs approved by the State of Alaska for testing for PFAS in your drinking water.
- Filter your water: Most water filtration and treatment systems do not remove PFAS, so some communities are forced to rely on bottled water. The EPA is researching water treatment methods, and you can learn more about effective methods of water treatment here.
- Test your blood for contamination: the Gustavus PFAS Action Coalition (GPAC) is working with Indiana University to conduct a pilot blood serum study on PFAS, which we hope to expand to a city-wide longitudinal study for all residents of Gustavus. Ultimately, they are working to make blood testing available to all residents of Alaska. If you’d like to learn more about these efforts, contact Kelly McLaughlin at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Support groups working on this issue: Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT),Gustavus PFAS Action Coalition, Alaska PFAS Action Coalition