Public Health, Community, and Environmental Organizations Applaud Passage of New Vermont Law Restricting PFAS in Consumer Products
This week, Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed into law a bill banning polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from food packaging, carpets, ski waxes, and firefighting foam. Massachusetts nonprofits Clean Water Action, MASSPIRG and Sierra Club applaud Vermont’s action and call on Massachusetts lawmakers to follow Vermont’s leadership by quickly passing legislation that bans PFAS from food packaging and consumer products sold or manufactured in Massachusetts.
Per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are a class of over 9,000 chemicals that make products stain-resistant, water-proof and non-stick. Medical studies--and epidemiological evidence--link PFAS to an array of health problems, including kidney cancer, testicular cancer, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, and immunosuppression. People with high levels of PFAS in their blood form fewer antibodies in response to vaccines and are less able to fight off infection.
PFAS are persistent bio-accumulative chemicals that are highly mobile and have been found in drinking water, groundwater, air and soil throughout the country. Testing in Massachusetts has found elevated PFAS in 48 of 242 water systems evaluated. Over 1,300 water systems in the Commonwealth have not yet been tested.
“Vermont’s ban on PFAS-treated food packaging and consumer products is a significant public health victory,” said Deirdre Cummings, Legislative Director, MASSPIRG. “Consumers should be able to trust that the packaging wrapped around the food we eat or the carpets that are in our home isn’t full of toxic chemicals. Alternatives to PFAS-treated food packaging and consumer products already exist. But even if they didn’t, is the threat of greasy fingers or carpet stains worth the risk of cancer?”
The signing this week of S20 An Act relating to perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances and other chemicals of concern in consumer products makes Vermont the first state in the nation to restrict PFAS in ski wax, carpets, and after-market treatments applied to carpets. Other states, including California, Maine New York, Washington, have restricted PFAS in food packaging, while California, Colorado, New Hampshire, New York and Washington have banned PFAS-containing firefighting foam and required labeling of firefighter protective gear.
In the current Massachusetts legislative session, Representative Jack Lewis (D-Ashland) and Senator Mike Moore (D-Millbury) have introduced bills to ban PFAS in food packaging.
Moore said, "I applaud the Vermont state legislature for taking a major step in the fight against PFAS by banning them from food packaging. We in the Commonwealth and in the legislature must now look to Vermont as an example and do what is right by also banning these harmful chemicals from food packaging in our state. I hope that this moment can be one of both motivation and encouragement for myself and my colleagues in the House and Senate."
Representative Jack Lewis added "I am excited by the successful effort to ban PFAS in products in the state of Vermont. This is an important step in protecting our families from these dangerous chemicals, and I look forward to further supporting similar efforts here in the Commonwealth. "
Lewis and Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton) are also sponsoring bills to ban PFAS in rugs, carpets, furniture textiles, and after-market treatments, car seats, personal care products, and cookware. systems in the state have not yet been tested.
Comerford said: "The protection from exposure to toxic PFAS chemicals that Vermont residents will experience as a result of this bill should spur us in Massachusetts to join them in taking similar strong action. I hope this momentum will push forward our efforts to say in Massachusetts as well that PFAS chemicals have no place in our products."
With the support of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts, Representative James Hawkins (D-Attleboro) and Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) have put forward bills that require labelling of PFAS-containing firefighter protective equipment, starting in 2023, and prohibit the use of PFAS in any personal protective equipment distributed in the state after January 1, 2025.
"We're glad to see Vermont join other states in passing legislation to ban PFAS in firefighting foam and require labeling of PFAS- containing Firefighter turnout gear." said Paul Jacques, Legislative Agent for the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts." Bold legislation such as this will help in our fight against occupational cancer."
Clean Water Action, MASSPIRG, Sierra Club support these Massachusetts bills to ban PFAS in food packaging, consumer products and firefighter personal protective equipment. Additional organizational supporters include: Built Environment Plus, Community Action Works, Conservation Law Foundation, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, Northeastern Social Sciences Environmental Health Research Institute, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, and Seaside Sustainability.