- Associated Press - Thursday, June 23, 2016

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - A day after President Barack Obama signed a major overhaul of toxic chemical rules into law, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called on federal regulators to use new powers under the law to determine if the industrial chemical PFOA should be restricted or banned.

“Given the concerns about the effects of PFOA on public health, I urge you to prioritize this chemical for assessment under the Toxic Substances Control Act as soon as possible,” the New York Democrat wrote in a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy on Thursday.

Gillibrand noted that health concerns about the chemical have been heightened by the recent discovery of drinking water contamination in Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh in upstate New York, as well as rural towns in Vermont and New Hampshire.

PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, long used to make Teflon and numerous other non-stick, stain-resistant and waterproof products, has been linked to cancer, thyroid issues and other illness. Hoosick Falls residents are worried after blood tests showed some of them had PFOA levels as much as 50 or 100 times above the national average, Gillibrand said.

Manufacturers agreed to voluntarily phase out PFOA by the end of 2015 under an EPA settlement, but the chemical persists in the environment and has been found in drinking water in numerous communities where it was used.

“The Environmental Protection Agency has expanded powers to more quickly regulate and ban PFOA than under current law,” said Melanie Benesh, an attorney for the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. “We don’t know what EPA will do because PFOA is already being phased out. It may not be a high priority for regulation.”

Gillibrand said PFOA contamination “threatens to become a major public health crisis across the Northeast and anywhere this chemical has been used in manufacturing.”

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