A new bill taken up in January, 2021, by the Vermont House proposes to impose restrictions on the use, manufacturing, sale, and distribution of several products containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.
Introduced by Reps. Dolan, Squirrell, Lefebvre, McCullough, Ode, and Sheldon, H.26 specifically names the products known to have the highest PFAS concentrations or those most likely to be absorbed or ingested by humans, notably class B firefighting foam, food packaging, and residential rugs and carpets.
GMWEA’s 35-member Government Affairs Committee (GAC) welcomed the legislation, noting that – given the wide use of these 5,000+ related molecules, the difficulty of detecting and remediating them – source control is the only realistic mitigation strategy. In a letter to Rep. Amy Sheldon, chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish, and Wildlife, our GAC expressed support for the measure, stating, in part:
“Given the limited, costly, and unproven treatment technologies, GMWEA and other similar water quality organizations nationwide have long advocated for source control of PFAS chemicals as the best solution to this problem. Limiting, as much as practical, the introduction of PFAS chemicals on the supply side will ultimately reduce what enters our waste stream. H.26 is a welcome step forward in achieving that critical objective.”
Under the proposed legislation, “A person, municipality, or State agency shall not discharge or otherwise use for training purposes class B firefighting foam that contains intentionally added PFAS.” Manufacturers are similarly prohibited from selling or distributing such products in Vermont, unless the inclusion of PFAS is required by federal law.
The food-packaging restrictions also include phthalates and bisphenols – used primarily in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins – proven in animal studies to cause reproductive disorders and possibly cancer. The legislation would grant the Department of Health the power to prohibit such products if it is deemed that safer alternatives exist.
The sale and distribution of carpets containing PFAS are also subject to restrictions in the bill. Carpets, couches, and mattresses are by far the leading contributors to landfill-leachate PFAS pollution, according to a the October, 2019 study by Sanborn, Head and Associates.
H.26 also designated PFAS as “chemicals of high concern to children.” (A parallel bill, H.27, proposed requiring warning labels on products containing PFAS.)
The terms relating to firefighting foam and chemicals of high concern to children are proposed to take effect on July 1, 2022; those relating to carpets and food packaging on July 1, 2023.
The bill’s future in the 2021 session has yet to be determined – but source control of PFAS is at last getting the attention it deserves!
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