Today, the Vermont Legislature gave final approval to a nation-leading bill that would restrict the sale of consumer products that contain toxic chemicals known as PFAS. The bill now heads to the Governor for his signature. The Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), and Vermont Conservation Voters released the following statements in response.
“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 has the opportunity to lead the nation in protecting people from PFAS, and Governor Scott must sign this bill into law.”
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. To make matters worse, PFAS contamination might worsen the impacts of Covid-19, according to recent scientific studies. 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.
“PFAS are particularly dangerous because they bioaccumulate in our bodies, so every exposure pathway matters,” said Marcie Gallagher, Environmental Associate at the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “The only way to protect public health from these ‘forever chemicals’ is to stop using them whenever possible.”
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.
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 are facing a global PFAS contamination crisis. We appreciate the Vermont Legislature’s unanimous support for first-in-the-nation restrictions on products containing these dangerous “forever chemicals.” We call on the Governor to sign this important bill into law to protect Vermonters’ health.”
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.