ECU professor testifies about PFAS chemicals before U.S. House committee for third time

Published: Mar. 24, 2021 at 5:32 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - An ECU toxicology professor testified before congress for the third time in the last two years about PFAS chemicals.

Commonly referred to as “forever chemicals”, PFAS chemicals are found in everyday items like non-stick cookware and microwave popcorn bags.

“They’re used in a wide variety of products and processes and they are mostly used because the carbon-fluorine bond is really, really strong and so they provide durability as well as non-stick, stain-resistant, and water-resistant properties,” said Dr. Jamie DeWitt.

We spoke DeWitt just hours before her testimony before a congressional subcommittee looking into the chemical’s possible presence in water sources at closed military bases. DeWitt says that firefighting foam called aqueous film-forming foam, or AFFF, that has been used in firefighting training at these bases has been implicated in contaminating water sources.

“I hope that the decision-makers learn from this hearing is we need to provide some additional funds to the Department of Defense so they can clean up these bases that are highly contaminated and find out more information about other contaminated bases so they can prioritize cleanup,” DeWitt said, “I do understand almost 700 bases and installations around the U.S. are suspected in having contributed to PFAS water contamination. Close to about 400 have been confirmed. Some of those bases are here in North Carolina.”

DeWitt says there is enough evidence about the hazardous properties of PFAS that we should consider managing them as an entire class of chemicals rather than evaluating the nearly ten thousand individual PFAS one by one.

“Research done by people at other institutions have highlighted that PFAS can induce a wide variety of undesirable health effects and these include effects on the cardiovascular system, effects on the liver, effects on the endocrine system, effects on reproduction, and effects on development as well as inducing certain types of cancers. So, we call them multisystem toxicants.”

DeWitt was scheduled to testify at around 3 p.m. to the Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies.

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