We are proudly locally partnered with friends at Clean Cape Fear who are also part of the National PFAS Coalition.
There is an IMMEDIATE need for clinicians to advise the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine on clinical guidance for health impacts from PFAS chemical contamination.
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The AMA has recently explored clinicians’ roles and ethical responsibilities when their community’s drinking water is contaminated. In the Journal of Ethics, they conclude, “when water is unsafe, physicians must take up public health roles.” They cite an obligation to assist in “defining and enforcing the parameters of what constitutes “safe” water and in addressing barriers to safe water access.”
Similarly, a report by the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments concludes, “Our nation is facing significant health challenges relating to clean water access. As a profession, the nursing voice is strong in advocating on behalf of health. Collectively, nurses can make a difference in ensuring clean water is available to all.”
Despite the positive role that the voices of healthcare professionals could play in clean water advocacy, barriers remain to engagement. Sadly, many clinical guidance resources related to environmental health threats are NOT user-friendly to meet the needs of busy clinicians in contaminated communities. On a similar note, there are gaps in understanding for many emerging contaminants like PFAS when it comes to recognizing the potential impact of water quality threats on our health.
This is why we are currently creating a network of doctors and nurses committed to learning to better identify, assess, and respond to both their patients’ and communities’ health risks from harmful microbial and chemical contamination in their water supply. As the Flint water crisis showed, healthcare voices can be extremely powerful both in the recognition of a water crisis and also in leadership when government response is inadequate or ineffectual.
Let’s join forces and empower our colleagues to lead on issues of clean water! Our patients and communities are counting on us!