Vermont Enacts Groundbreaking Restrictions on Toxic PFAS Chemicals

Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed into law a nation-leading bill that restricts the sale of consumer products that contain toxic chemicals known as PFAS. Legislative leaders and organizations released the following statements in response.

Senator Ginny Lyons, Chair of the Senate Committee on Health & Welfare noted, “Firefighters, outdoor enthusiasts, children and families understand how important S.20 is for public health and the environment. The law removes toxic disease causing chemicals like PFAS from food wrappers, ski wax, kids’ products, carpets, and firefighting equipment. This step removes hidden forever chemicals from human exposure. It is an important step to keep Vermonters healthy.”

Representative Ann Pugh, Chair of the House Committee on Human Services said, “By eliminating unnecessary PFAS toxins from commonly used products, we’re not only addressing the acute threat posed by these chemicals, but also the potential harm they may cause by exacerbating the harmful effects of a virus like COVID-19. This is a very important piece of legislation for Vermont today and in the future. Its passage will protect our health, our environment and our ‘Vermont’ brand in commerce and tourism.”

PFAS chemicals — per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances — are linked to harmful health impacts including high blood pressure, thyroid disease, kidney, and testicular cancers, and suppressed immune system function. Harm to the immune system due to PFAS exposure has broad-ranging effects, from reduced ability to fight off viral infections to reduced responsiveness to vaccines.

Despite the harm they cause, PFAS chemicals continue to be used in a variety of products imported into Vermont, exposing people who use those products. PFAS chemicals present further threats when those items are disposed of and chemicals can leach into our water.

Bradley Reed, President of the Professional Firefighters of Vermont noted, “Passage of this bill ensures our members will not be exposed to cancer-causing chemicals in the equipment and extinguishing agents we use to fight fires, it is a great step forward in protecting the health and safety of Vermont’s firefighters.”

“Your sandwich wrap doesn’t need to be coated in chemicals. Your carpeting shouldn’t be a health threat to toddlers. Your skis should not leave a toxic trail in the snow. And putting out a fire shouldn’t create a hazardous waste site. Vermont just became the first state to ban PFAS in all of these products,” said Marcie Gallagher, Environmental Associate at the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.

“The legislature has taken a major step forward to protect communities and firefighters from toxic forever chemicals,” said Jen Duggan, Vice President and Director of CLF Vermont. “PFAS wreak havoc on our health and they have no place in products we use every day. Vermont is helping lead the nation in protecting people from PFAS chemicals.”

S.20 bans the sale of common items containing PFAS — including firefighting foam and food packaging. The bill also takes steps to restrict harmful phthalate and bisphenol chemicals from food packaging. S.20 is the first state law in the country to restrict PFAS chemicals from ski wax and carpets, rugs, and aftermarket stain treatments.

Lauren Hierl, Executive Director of Vermont Conservation Voters added, “We appreciate the Vermont Legislature’s leadership and unanimous support on this first-in-the-nation law to restrict a range of products containing these dangerous “forever chemicals.” We’re pleased Governor Scott signed it into law, prioritizing public health over chemical industry profits.”

S.20 is supported by Vermont firefighters, educators, public health experts, children’s advocates, and businesses. See this sign-on letter for more information about the bill, and a list of Vermont leaders who support its enactment.