Environmental Human Rights

PFAS chemicals found in Maryland seafood and in drinking water: this is a violation of our environmental human rights

The Bay Journal just published an article about PFAS and laboratory findings from a non-profit organization showing evidence of PFAS in the drinking water in Montgomery County and in oysters and fish in Southern Maryland. Exposure to PFAS chemicals has been shown to cause an increased risk of cancer and birth defects. PFAS is a frighteningly potent, destructive, and “forever” class of 8,000 chemicals. These chemicals are in our homes and are used to make consumer products, such as stain-resistant rugs and carpets,  non-stick cookware, and water-resistant and stain-resistant clothing. PFAS are also used in firefighting foam at military bases and airports. Read the Bay Journal article here. 

Evidence of PFAS in our water supply and our seafood in Maryland is a violation of our “fundamental and inalienable rights to live in a healthy environment,” which was recognized by the state of Maryland in 1973 in the passage of the Maryland Environmental Policy Act (MEPA).  MEPA relies on state agencies to put rules in place to enforce those rights. Since 1973, very few Maryland agencies have adopted rules to enforce MEPA, which means the rights of Marylanders to live in a healthy environment is being ignored. This troubling information about PFAS showing up in Maryland seafood and drinking water is a good example of why Marylanders need to have a protected right to a healthy environment.   

IF Maryland had a state constitutional amendment that included “the fundamental and inalienable right to a healthy environment” in the Declaration of Rights section AND designated the state as a trustee of our natural resources, including our water supply and our fish, Marylanders could hold our state accountable for protecting this right and have standing in court. IF we had a constitutional amendment designating the state as trustee of our natural resources, the state, as trustee, would be legally bound to put protection of our natural resources, like our water supply and our seafood, as a top priority over industrial uses.  

This is why the Maryland Campaign for Environmental Human Rights (MDEHR) is working with Senator Obie Patterson and Delegate Wanika Fisher to bring a state constitutional amendment to the Maryland General Assembly in 2021. This would provide the best legal protection for the “fundamental and inalienable right of Marylanders to live in a healthy environment” and a stable climate. Support our amendment campaign and sign up to be a part of outreach efforts to the state legislature here. Sign up to volunteer with the campaign here.

The amendment would also strengthen the efforts of the public and advocacy organizations to work with our state in protecting the natural resources like our water supply and our seafood supply to keep our communities safe and healthy. MDEHR appreciates and supports the work of Maryland PIRG, Clean Water Action, Environment Maryland and the NRDC to educate the public about PFAS contamination in the Chesapeake watershed and for their work on PFAS legislation.