Airborne pollution can spread PFAS contamination farther than previously thought, according to a new study by Bennington College researchers. The study confirms and expands on the researchers’ preliminary findings, presented to the public in 2018, which found that pollution from factories in Bennington was likely the cause of contamination in the nearby Green Mountain National Forest. Since then, authors Tim Schroeder, David Bond and Janet Foley — all with Bennington College — have expanded their sampling efforts, finding more evidence of contamination in the forest, which is otherwise largely pristine.
In 2016, news broke that pollution from local Teflon-coating factories had caused widespread contamination by PFAS, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. PFAS are used to make products resistant to heat and water, and they cause an array of harmful health effects. The contamination damaged hundreds of residents’ drinking-water wells and prompted several lawsuits against the plastics company Saint-Gobain, which owns the now-defunct factories.
“All of these different interests descended on us at the same time when the crisis unfolded,” Schroeder said. “There was so much information. There was a lot of public mistrust of what was being said by all of the different parties.” That prompted the team from Bennington College to look for its own answers, which it’s been reporting to the community.