One such group of chemicals is per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). These chemicals pose concerns given both historic and current widespread uses in a number of applications of thousands of related compounds; the persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic nature of many of the compounds; and potential human health and ecological concerns. Scientific understanding has been advancing rapidly in the past decade around multiple aspects of the PFAS issue, including concerning levels in the environment, human exposures and potential effects, and ecological exposures and potential effects.
As in other locations, there are concerns about the presence and potential effects of PFASs in the Great Lakes Basin. The Great Lakes themselves are the source of drinking water for approximately 40 million people, and many millions more within the basin obtain drinking water from other surface waters and groundwater. In addition, the Great Lakes support significant biodiversity, including historically up to 180 fish species and other diverse life, and diverse habitats including large freshwater estuaries, offshore rocky reefs, coastal wetlands, shoreline dunes, and other habitats.
The good news is that local, state, and federal governments have tools at their disposal to advance manageable solutions to this far-ranging problem. But they must act with urgency and purpose. Federal action to address the problem has been slow-going. Some members of Congress are taking steps to advance solutions to the PFAS crisis. Yet questions remain whether a divided Congress and ambivalent White House will act quickly and aggressively enough to address the scope of the problem. For this reason it is important that governors and state legislatures take a leadership role in confronting the PFAS crisis to protect public health, fish and wildlife, and the economy in the region.
To learn more check out The Science and Policy of PFASs in the Great Lake Report
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More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. The National Wildlife Federation is on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.