Protecting the most vulnerable is vital to the survival of all of us and our planet. When it comes to toxic chemicals, one thing is clear: many of the same toxic chemicals that can harm humans, especially kids and other at risk populations, can also impact the health of orcas, their young, and their food sources.
The Pollution Prevention for Our Future Act is the BOLD ACTION we need for kids and orcas. The new law will give our state agencies the needed authority to address a major source of toxic pollution—products used in our homes, schools, and workplaces.
The law has the following major components:
- Directs state agencies to address classes of chemicals and moves away from a chemical by chemical approach, which has historically resulted in companies switching to equally bad or worse substitutes. The first chemical classes the law requires agencies to address include: PFAS, phthalates, alkylphenol ethoxylate and bisphenol compounds, organohalogen flame retardants and PCBs.
- Gives the Department of Ecology the authority to ban or restrict chemicals after determining safer alternatives are available. It also allows the agency to require disclosure of priority chemicals in key products.
- Establishes timelines for action in the bill and legislative oversight that will keep the program on track and making progress.
UPDATE: The Pollution Prevention for Our Future Act (SSB 5135) was sponsored by Senator Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) and Representative Beth Doglio (D-Olympia) in the House. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 25-24 and the House of Representatives by a vote of 60-37. The Senate concurred with the House’s version of the bill by a vote of 27-22. The bill was signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee on May 8, 2019.
KIDS AND ORCAS IN THE SAME BOAT WITH TOXIC CHEMICALS
Toxic chemicals that cause cancer, disrupt hormones, or suppress the immune system are present in our homes and our bodies. These chemicals get passed on in the womb to fetuses and through breastfeeding to newborns.
Many of the same chemicals persist in the environment and build up in the food chain. Toxic chemical pollution is one of orcas’ biggest threats, impacting their health and reducing the availability of Chinook salmon, a preferred food source. When orcas are starving, the chemicals in their blubber can mobilize into their bloodstream, making them more susceptible to disease and death.
TOXIC TRESPASSERS: FROM OUR HOMES TO THEIR WATERS
A big source of exposures for both kids and orcas is toxic chemicals that are intentionally put in consumer products used in our homes, schools, and workplaces. Electronics like TVs, carpeting, shampoos and detergents, can contain toxic chemicals that are a concern for health. While we don’t see the chemicals, they escape out of products into dust and air in our homes. They eventually make their way into the environment, contaminating air, water, and wildlife.
Of particular concern for the most vulnerable populations, like kids and orcas, are five especially dangerous classes of chemicals: nonstick PFAS, toxic flame retardants, hormone-disrupting phthalates, PCBs, and phenolic compounds, including Bisphenol A (BPA). These chemicals are found not only in our homes, bodies, and breastmilk, but are also found in wastewater treatment discharge, surface water, sediments, and fish and wildlife.
IS YOUR TV AFFECTING HUMAN AND ORCA HEALTH?
People are exposed to the chemicals in dust when they breathe or ingest it. Recent research identified 44 chemicals in indoor dust belonging to four of these five chemical groups: PFAS, flame retardants, phthalates, and phenolic compounds. Kids are especially vulnerable to toxic chemicals because their bodies are still developing—and they have more exposure relative to body size from food, water, air, and dust.
While orcas don’t use consumer products, chemicals from products like TVs and carpeting don’t just stay in the indoor environment, but end up in orcas’ waters and contaminate their food. One major way these chemicals leave our homes is as hitchhikers on our clothes. When we do laundry, the chemicals get washed down the drain, go through wastewater treatment systems, and are discharged into waters where they contaminate the food web and threaten survival of salmon and orcas.
Phasing out the use of harmful chemicals in consumer products is an effective way to reduce levels of the chemicals in our homes and the environment. For example, once Washington and other states phased out PBDE flame retardants in consumer products, levels of the chemicals decreased in harbor seals, Pacific herring, and English sole.
Find Out More
Current Status: SB 5135 , sponsored by Senator Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), passed the Washington State Legislature on April 22, 2019 and was signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee on May 8, 2019.
HB 1194, the House companion bill sponsored by Representative Beth Doglio (D-Olympia), did not make it to a vote in the House.
How Your TV and Other Products Can Pollute People and Orcas
It would be natural to think that most toxic pollution affecting orcas comes from discharges of unwanted chemicals, but a big source of toxic exposures for both people and orcas is chemicals in consumer products.
Toxic Soup: The Five Classes of Chemicals Affecting Both People and Orcas
Five classes of chemicals in consumer products are emerging as particular concern for the health of both humans and orcas.
Who Supports the Pollution Prevention for Our Future Act?
A diverse coalition of over 40 health, environmental, orca recovery, faith, and community organizations are asking the legislature to pass this critical legislation.
Major Retailers Ahead of Curve Phasing Out Worst of the Worst Chemicals
As consumers increasingly demand less toxic products and laws require the use of safer chemicals, retailers are requiring suppliers to stop using harmful chemicals in consumer products, including four classes of chemicals that have emerged as a particular concern for the health of both humans and wildlife.