Reps. Cortvriend, Speakman to host online forum on ‘forever chemicals’ Tuesday


STATE HOUSE – Rep. Terri Cortvriend and Rep. June S. Speakman are joining Clean Water Action, Conservation Law Foundation and the Audubon Society of Rhode Island in hosting a virtual panel discussion Tuesday about the dangers of PFAS chemicals, and what can be done to protect against them.

The event, scheduled Tuesday, Oct. 12, at 7 p.m. will include an expert panel featuring Department of Environmental Management Acting Director Terrence Gray, local scientists and academics. Moderated by Alex Kuffner of the Providence Journal, the panel will help frame the importance of this issue and discuss what you can do to protect your family. They will also take questions about toxic forever chemicals.

 Panelists include: 

Dr. Rebecca Altman, environmental sociologist and author

Terry Gray, acting director, RI Department of Environmental Management

Dr. Lauren Richter, assistant professor, Department of History, Philosophy, and Social Sciences, RI School of Design

Dr. Angela Slitt, associate professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of RI

Tickets to this free event and more information are available on the event page: Toxic Forever Chemicals in Rhode Island: A Town Hall Conversation.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are found in hundreds of consumer products, including nonstick cookware, food wrappers, cosmetics, waterproof jackets, carpets, stain- or wrinkle-resistant fabrics, firefighting foam and much more.

These chemicals have been linked to cancer, and may cause adverse effects on the immune system and other tissues and organs. They are often called “forever chemicals” because they are highly stable, so they don’t break down in the environment. The result is widespread contamination of water, agriculture and the food chain worldwide. In fact, PFAS chemicals have been found in 44% of tested water systems in Rhode Island. 

For three years, Representative Speakman and Representative Cortvriend have introduced measures to ban PFAS from food packaging made or sold in Rhode Island (2021-H 5356A) and establishing maximum contaminant levels for forever chemicals in public drinking water systems (2021-H 5523). The former passed the House this year, and the representatives plan to push for adoption of both in the 2022 session.

“PFAS chemicals are ubiquitous in consumer products, despite the known dangers and all the questions that remain about their long-term effects or how to rid them from our bodies or environment. We cannot continue to tolerate this health hazard,” said Representative Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol).

Said Representative Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown), “There also needs to be greater public awareness about the dangers of PFAS and all the products that contain them. People need to know that they may be exposing themselves and their families to dangerous chemicals through their cookware, food packaging carpets or clothing. There are alternatives, but you have to be aware of the danger to know to avoid it. We hope this event helps spread awareness of these hazardous chemicals and builds support for action to curb their use in Rhode Island.”



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