State Senate bans PFAS chemicals

FRITZ MAYER
Posted 6/5/19

ALBANY, NY — The New York State Senate has passed legislation that would ban polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are a class of chemical compounds found in firefighting foam. The bill, …

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State Senate bans PFAS chemicals

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ALBANY, NY — The New York State Senate has passed legislation that would ban polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are a class of chemical compounds found in firefighting foam. The bill, which passed in the senate on May 20, would also require written documentation of any PFAS or related chemicals discovered in firefighting equipment.

The legislation was introduced by Sen. James Skoufis, in the wake of PFAS being spilled into a stream in New Windsor from a hanger in Stewart International Airport. “My district has been afflicted by PFAS contaminations and enough is enough,” Skoufis said. “I’m sick and tired of my constituents’ right to clean and safe water continuously being threatened.”

A type of PFAS called perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) was discovered in 2015 to have contaminated the drinking water in the Village of Hoosic Falls and later Petersburgh. Hoosic Falls resident Michael Hickey discovered the contamination after his father died of cancer that Hickey believes was related to consumption of the contaminated water.

Some PFAS don’t easily break down in the environment or the human body. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “The chemicals were used in multiple products for decades including firefighting foams, water-resistant clothing and Teflon pans… Some studies have linked the chemicals to reproductive and developmental issues, some cancers, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol and other negative health effects.”

According to the website Chemical Watch, (chemicalwatch.com/74132/us-states-showing-trend-towards-regulating-chemicals-by-class), states are taking action to limit PFAS and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) because of a lack of sufficient action at the federal level.

 “At least eight states to consider bans or restrictions of the use of PFAS in food packaging, including Connecticut, Maine and Vermont; at least nine states to consider restricting the use of PFAS in firefighting foam, including Alaska, Vermont and Michigan. Washington State also set the stage for this action, having banned PFAS in most firefighting foam applications, with some exceptions. The U.S. Congress has also passed legislation directing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to no longer require the use of PFAS to meet its performance standards for airport firefighting; at least 11 states will consider policies to identify or disclose chemicals of concern including Alaska, California, Mississippi, New York and Virginia. Laws are being proposed across sectors, including personal care products, fragrances, electronics and products for pregnant women or children,” the website says.

The EPA has set a lifetime health advisory (LTHA) level for two PFAS in drinking water: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). The LTHA level is 70 parts per trillion (ppt). New York lawmakers, however, are considering a limit of just 10 ppt.

On May 3, more than 180 countries agreed to ban PFOA with some exceptions under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. The U.S. is not a member of the treaty. The U.S. isn’t a party to the Stockholm Convention, however the EPA has said it will soon issue a proposal to list PFOA as a hazardous substance.

According to the State Environmental Impact Center at the New York University School of Law, 98% of people in the U.S. have some level of highly fluorinated chemicals [PFAS] in their blood.

“PFAS chemicals received a dose of significant public attention on May 14, 2018, when it was reported that the EPA and the White House, along with the Defense Department, had pressured a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to withhold a health study on PFAS exposure and associated health risks, describing it as a public relations nightmare,” the center wrote. “A public outcry ensued, prompting the Administration to release the CDC report in June 2018.”

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