Maine develops broad safety standards aimed at permanently protecting public food system from chemicals and determining when local farmers recovering from PFAS crisis can safely return to market doing.
Maine has already set safe limits for milk and beef, but more than 1,000 agricultural sites are looking for polluted wells and fields that have been fertilized with sludge, so state toxicologists are looking elsewhere. They are also desperate to set food safety limits for local crops and livestock.
Once these safety levels are in place, states will have to decide when and how to use them, but one thing is for sure, consumers will buy them at their local grocery store or farmers market. This means that you should not assume that your food has been tested for PFAS.
“Maine does not have the personnel, funding, or testing capacity to screen everything grown or sourced in Maine for PFAS,” he told the legislative committee on Wednesday about so-called eternal chemicals. Sub-Agricultural Commissioner Nancy McBrady said after the briefing. “We import much less stuff into Maine.”
PFAS are a class of over 9,000 man-made chemicals that have been used since the 1950s in industrial and household products such as waterproof clothing, nonstick cookware, and firefighting foam. They are associated with cancer, renal dysfunction, immune system suppression, and pre-eclampsia in pregnant women.
Maine will most likely use food standards to determine when contaminated farms can safely sell to the consumer market. Either because certain crops do not absorb toxic substances, or because on-site remediation efforts, such as water filtration systems, are working. McBrady said.
To date, the state has found higher PFAS contamination on 56 farms in Maine, most within a tenth of a mile from sites approved by Maine for high-volume and high-frequency application of sludge or septage. McBrady said it was located within
The state seeks to determine methods of removing the chemicals where possible or to help farmers modify their operations to avoid contaminated fields, water sources, or food sources. has provided financial support to , which has so far amounted to $2 million.
Maine also established a $60 million PFAS fund to help farmers survive the PFAS crisis and guide Maine research in the field. But the advisory board overseeing the fund has just begun its work and won’t be able to release the fund until midsummer, said fund director Beth Valentine.
The good news is that preliminary research shows that different types of livestock, produce and fruit absorb and store PFAS in different ways, according to toxicologist Andrew Smith of the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. .
For example, over time, cows’ milk and beef that once exceeded acceptable health standards could finally be safely consumed if farmers replaced contaminated feed and water with clean versions. Smith said. But pigs appear to retain PFAS much longer, even after the source of contamination has been removed.
Similarly, studies show that crops such as asparagus, corn, potatoes, rhubarb, squash and tomatoes can be grown on PFAS-contaminated farms, Smith said. In some crops, such as corn, this is because the stem absorbs his PFAS, but not the grain we eat.
That’s good news for Maine, the nation’s eighth-largest potato producer. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Maine harvested 1.81 billion pounds of potatoes last year, down slightly from the 2021 total of 1.84 billion pounds, but still a strong crop.
However, other crops such as lettuce, arugula, carrots, and spinach appear to absorb and store PFAS. It is still cultivated today. For example, more than 300 of his 7,600 farms in Maine grow lettuce, according to federal data.
To set PFAS limits for individual foods, researchers like Smith consider three different factors: the established toxicity levels of the most commonly found PFASs, and the PFASs in that vegetable, fruit or animal. Intake, and how much of that food a child or sick or elderly American may eat.
Maine’s CDC uses federal toxicity standards when available, but it’s not always possible because the state is often ahead of federal authorities on PFAS issues. , says Smith. But in 2021, the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry will start working on her PFAS toxicity levels, and this has helped.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says researchers like Smith know how much of a particular item the most vulnerable Americans, or the most consumers of that product, consume in a particular day, month, or year. maintains an extensive annual database of U.S. dietary patterns to help He said.
The ultimate goal is an acceptable daily intake of PFAS in all foods that poses minimal health risks.
The agency has drafted safety limits for pork, eggs, lettuce, spinach and potatoes, Smith said.
A persistent question is when and how such restrictions should be enforced, Smith said. Should all foods tested above the threshold be banned from the market, or should a public notice be issued telling the farmer to taper off his PFAS, as is the case with public water supplies? Is it a combination of the two?
“Even after the science is perfect, many questions are being asked about regulation. So even science is a moving target,” Smith said. said after the briefing. “There are still many things we don’t know.”
CDC is building, equipping, and staffing a $1.6 million PFAS test lab. The lab should be able to run tests that need immediate attention, such as human serum tests for those at risk and food tests on milk and beef awaiting sale. In early 2024, Smith said.
Two private labs have responded to the state’s invitation to build PFAS testing capacity in Maine, he said.
McBrady should not assume that farmers with fields, herds, or wells with high PFAS tests can simply change their business from beef cattle grazing fields with high PFAS tests to asparagus farms. warned lawmakers to Not only is it stressful, but it can also be financially unprofitable.
Some farmers sitting on land contaminated by fertilizers applied through Maine’s licensed sludge and septage residue program will either relocate to PFAS-free sites or buy back where no rules have yet been formulated. We hope to be acquired by the state under the program. Decided, she said.
Farm yields in Maine rose last year from 227,000 acres in 2021 to 244,000 acres in 2022, bucking the national trend of shrinking agricultural production, according to data released last month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. .
Last year, Maine became the first U.S. state to ban the sale of products containing PFAS, except those deemed “inevitable” such as medical products. The ban won’t go into effect until 2030, but starting this year, manufacturers will have to report PFAS in products sold locally to the state.
The so-called eternal chemical, so named because it doesn’t break down naturally, is found in the blood of 97% of Americans. Studies show that some of her PFAS compounds reduce fertility, cause metabolic disturbances, damage the immune system, and increase cancer risk.
A water-resistant and heat-resistant chemical that has been used for over 70 years. It also flows into us and out of us as waste. Sludge from wastewater treatment and industrial plants prompted his PFAS study on his 1,000-site farm in Maine.
Maine has taken a leading role in PFAS regulation, often overtaking federal authorities. Her PFAS drinking water standards, at least for now, are stricter than national standards. Federal officials haven’t set her PFAS limits for milk or beef, but Maine has set limits for 2017 and 2020, respectively.
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