New Hampshire legislators this session will consider requiring bottled water brands in the state to be tested and labeled for toxic PFAS chemicals.
The industrial compounds have been linked to health problems and can persist in the environment, but aren't subject to binding federal regulations.
Last year, New Hampshire regulators found high levels of PFAS chemicals in local bottled water brands sourced from a spring in Massachusetts.
The state will sometimes check bottled water for PFAS – when that water is provided to communities that have been dealing with PFAS in their wells. Hundreds of residents with that problem in Merrimack had to rely on bottled water for more than two years. Nancy Murphy is a local state representative.
"I liken it to switching seats on the Titanic,” she says. “We tried to solve a problem, [but put] ourselves in a position – unknowingly and unwittingly – of creating another issue."
Murphy is co-sponsoring a bill to make water bottlers test for PFAS and other toxins, including arsenic and the gasoline additive MTBE. They'd have to print details of any chemicals detected on their bottles.
Murphy is also co-sponsoring a bill to offer more PFAS education for medical providers, among several other related bills on legislators’ docket this year.
"We can't give up. We're on the right side of this, and our families, our lives depend on it,” she says. “We need clean water and we need healthy children."
Meanwhile, new state regulations are on hold, pending court appeals.
The legislature last year directed the state to set strict new limits on PFAS in public water supplies. Those rules were halted by a court injunction that took effect this week.