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New Law Protects Drinking Water and Firefighters from Perfluorinated Chemicals

firefighter and child drinking water

(Olympia, WA) – Today Governor Jay Inslee signed a new law restricting the use of firefighting foam containing harmful perfluorinated chemicals. Firefighting foam used at firefighting training facilities, airports, and military bases is one of the top reasons drinking water in several Washington state communities, as well as in states across the country, is contaminated with perfluorinated chemicals. Washington is the first state to place restrictions on firefighting foam.

Perfluorinated chemicals or “PFAS chemicals” are industrial chemicals that are linked to cancer, liver toxicity, and other health effects. The chemicals are extremely persistent and can stay in the human body for as long as 8 years.

The legislation, SB 6413, was sponsored by Senator Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim). Rep. Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds) sponsored a companion bill in the House.

Specifically, the new law:

  • Prohibits the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foams for training purposes beginning on July 1, 2018.
  • Prohibits the sale of PFAS-containing firefighting foams for use in Washington state beginning on July 1, 2020, unless the use for which it is intended is required by federal law such as at airports, or the foam will be used by an oil refinery, oil terminal, or chemical plant for firefighting at those facilities.
  • Requires that any manufacturer of PFAS-firefighting foam recall their product and reimburse retailers or other purchases once the ban on sale is in effect.
  • Requires anyone selling firefighting gear containing PFAS chemicals to notify the buyer.

Senator Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim), prime sponsor of the legislation: “This will limit contamination and exposure to chemicals that build up in the environment and in our bodies. This is especially important for pregnant women and young children, as these chemicals can disrupt the endocrine system and impede fetal development.”

Laurie Valeriano, Executive Director, Toxic-Free Future: “We are thrilled Governor Inslee signed this important health measure. It will prevent further contamination of drinking water, firefighters, and the environment. However, there is still work to be done not just in Washington but across the country. Contaminated communities must be cleaned up and chemical companies responsible for putting these chemicals into the environment, not taxpayers, should pay for the clean up.”

Michael White, Legislative Liaison for the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters: “Cancer is the leading cause of death of firefighters. This new law protects firefighters who use the foam in training and firefighting activities. We thank legislators and Governor Inslee for supporting this important law.”

Gretchen Salter, Interim Director, Safer States: “Drinking water contamination is a serious health concern not just in Washington state, but across the country. Fifteen million Americans have drinking water contaminated with perfluorinated chemicals. Washington is the first state to restrict these chemicals, but should not be the last.”

Last week, Governor Inslee signed the first ever legislation banning the use of the chemicals in paper food packaging. More information on the ban on food packaging is available here.

For more information or to arrange interviews contact: Ivy Sager-Rosenthal, [email protected] or 206-632-1545 ext 113.


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